Anachrocon Reorganizes Amid Controversy Surrounding Chairman Created by StaffWriter on 2/27/2014 8:25:35 PM
AnachroCon announced last week via Facebook that one of its founding members and co-chairmen William MacLeod would be leaving the con.
AnachroCon 2014, held February 14-16, at the Atlanta Marriott Perimeter Center, announced last week via Facebook that one of its founding members and co-chairmen William MacLeod would be leaving the con. In his original message (dated Tuesday February 18th) he stated, “The Army finally took its toll on me…. After 6 years as Chairman of AnachroCon, I (William MacLeod) am stepping down and turning convention operations over to my beloved co-chair Cindy so that I may focus on medical issues that have begun to plague me even more over the years.”
However, in the two days leading up to William MacLeod’s announcement, accusations surfaced that a member of the con staff allegedly received inappropriate and unwanted verbal and physical advances from the co-chairman. The staffer, who asked not to be named publically but was interviewed at length by a member of the Steampunk Chronicle staff, states that William MacLeod made repeated offers of sex over the weekend and fondled her at the most recent convention. According to the staffer, this was not the first time he had inappropriately touched her, and she alleges a pattern of such behavior going back several years.
A Troubled History
SpC has uncovered a string of allegations against William MacLeod, including a related sexual harassment allegation in the resignation letter of a former AnachroCon Senior Director of Promotions, Dan Carroll, who cited MacLeod’s behavior toward female members of Carroll’s staff. Carroll stated this week, "I resigned from AnachroCon because of the completely inappropriate treatment of women by the Chairman. All of the women who worked under me at the convention had asked me to address the issue. He did not seem to take these concerns seriously. It was my understanding he had taken steps to seek treatment and was working on the problem." Carroll resigned in 2011. According to Cindy MacLeod, at the time of Dan Carroll's resignation, AnachroCon, was not as well organized and they were still running it as a "private party." There was no formal investigation.
A more recent departure was that of Megan Maude, director of the Fashion Track. She alleges that the problem of harassment has been pervasive at the con for a number years. In a statement to Steampunk Chronicle, she said, “Predatory behavior was being tolerated and even encouraged by the chairman and his friends... I explained my many concerns about the safety of women at the con to Strobel [Charles Strobel, the Director of Programing and Anachrocon LLC Board of Directors member]... There was even talk of having a woman on staff whose only job would be to handle sexual harassment reports…[but nothing changed]… I genuinely don't feel that I can safely invite any of my younger girlfriends to the con. I don't want to tell a bunch of girls in their early to mid 20s to come to an event where I'm genuinely afraid they will be sexually assaulted.”
Rules are Rules
In her allegations, Maude links systemic flaunting of both con policy and civil law directly to the leadership of the con chair, citing a “trickle-down effect’. To this point, the course of this investigation uncovered witnesses who also reported seeing William MacLeod walking through the convention, attending panels and entering the hotel bar while carrying a concealed handgun. While it has not been confirmed that the gun was either loaded or functional, William MacLeod states on his personal blog, “Personally I carry a 40.cal with a total of nineteen rounds pretty much everywhere I go. It is a rare time when I am unarmed and not prepared to blow a hole in someone who is threatening my life, the life of my family or even someone stranger who is in the wrong place at the wrong time.”. According to the published rules of Anachrocon, this is a violation of the weapons policy, which states: “All weapons must be non-working and peace bonded. Bladed weapons must be cased or sheathed at all times. Any firearms or antique firearms used in costuming must have the firing mechanisms disabled, bolt, flint, match or firing pin removed or have the trigger restrained by a member of our security staff. Live ammunition is prohibited.” Also, carrying a gun into a bar is illegal in the state of Georgia although there is current pending legislation waiting to be voted on by the state Senate concerning this area.
In regards to the role of leadership. many major Steampunk cons look to the Alliance of Alternate History Conventions. In a display of unity among cons, the Alliance issued a manifesto that holds leadership and celebrity to a higher standard of behavior. In that document, which is incorporated in the rules page of AnachroCon’s website, it is stated, “Civility, honor, and integrity are some of the highest held values in the Steampunk Community and the organizers of the undersigned Conventions encourage the continued practice of these values, especially in those who bear positions of responsibility.” [emphasis added] Both William and Cindy MacLeod were a part of the original con runners to draft and sign this open letter to the Steampunk Community.
Reactions to Recent Allegations
Late Saturday night, Strobel says he received a detailed account of the Anachrocon 2014 incidents from the alleged victim. He then brought the complaints to the attention of co-chair Cindy MacLeod, wife of William MacLeod, early Sunday morning, which was the last day of the convention.
The staffer in question says that even though she made her allegations to a senior member of the con staff, she was never presented with the option to speak with a member of hotel or convention security or local law enforcement. Director of Security, Jeffrey Moore, was contacted but declined an interview. He had this to say: “I cannot comment about anything that happened at a con or its policies. I do take all allegations of inappropriate behavior seriously and will pursue it as far as the person reporting the incident feels comfortable going. From reporting it to the convention to getting local law enforcement involved.”
Chairwoman MacLeod admits a lack of formal policy and procedure. She states that her former co-chair declined her request a year ago for an AnachroCon policy on sexual harassment. Cindy says “There was discussion between William and I… but William says ‘We already have security, why do we need a policy?’”
Anachrocon Moving Ahead under New Leadership
Ms. MacLeod’s first order of business as the new Chair has been to reach out to other cons to review their policies and that she contacted the BackUp Ribbon project two years ago and has had ribbons available at the registration desk during Anachrocon 2013 and 2014.* She states that she has contacted the Con Anti-Harrassment Project in order to learn more about efforts to coordinate Con safety across all of fandom, and attests that these policies would establish a clear chain of security, be clearly publicized, and would relate to everyone, whether guest or staff. “It’s not acceptable for a man or a woman, or a guest or a staff member to be harassed or to be the one doing the harassing. Period. The end. And that includes me.” Another initiative that she intends to spearhead is the creation of an alcohol-free lounge area to serve as a retreat from otherwise hectic con activities.
In addition to changes in policies and procedures, she intends, in her own words, to “clean house” for next year. This includes possible future reorganization on the Board of Directors level and throughout the con, as well as revamping or eliminating some tracks within the con, including the removal of the Etiquette and Indulgence Track, which consists of several “over-21” events and is not part of her vision for AnachroCon in 2015.
What role William MacLeod plays in AnachroCon from this point forward remains to be determined. According to Cindy MacLeod, he is still the sole signatory on several contracts for future events and is still a member of the Anachrocon, LLC Board.
SpC approached William MacLeod more than once for an interview, but he declined and provided this written statement:
I have left my position as Chairman of AnachroCon under advisement from my psychiatrist and counsellor [sic] as well as my medical doctor. The stress levels caused by my responsibilities are aggravating not only my physical health but is also having an adverse effect on the PTSD from which I suffer from due to my time in the Army. I hope to regain my health as soon as I can. As far as my future in the operations of AnachroCon, that is unknown at this time but I will follow the instructions of my health care providers as to that.
* The original text of this article was modified to include a correction. For more information please refer to the correction published 3/1/14.
[This story was investigated and written through a collaborative process among the Senior Editors and Publisher of the Steampunk Chronicle. For more information on this process, please read the related editorial piece.]