Gail Gygax On Memorial Funds & Legal Expenses
  • Gail Gygax On Memorial Funds & Legal Expenses


    Amidst the whirl of debate that sprang up in response to the recent news about the Gygax trademark and Gary Gygax's widow, Gail, and sons Luke and Ernie, one question was asked frequently -- the legal dispute was an expensive endeavour (in the region of six figures, according to some speculation) and a number of folks wondered whether it had eaten into funds set aside for the Gygax Memorial Fund (administered by Gail Gygax to create a memorial statue of her late husband). I figured the most expedient thing to do was to simply ask her.

    We're talking two different entities here. Both are headed by Gail Gygax. One is called The Gygax Memorial Fund (GMF) and the other is the Gail C. Gygax Revocable Trust (Gygax Trust).

    I'd add that other questions have circulated that I do not feel comfortable asking; I feel those issues are between the family members involved. However, the Memorial Fund is, of course, a more public affair. Here's what Gail Gygax answered when I asked her about the funding situation for the legal dispute and the Memorial Fund (bearing in mind it's Thanksgiving today in the US):

    "The Gygax Memorial Fund is a 501 c 3 Corp. All tax returns have been filed and all donations accounted for. The GMF does not pay Mrs. Gygax a salary for her endless hours of service nor has it loaned her or the Gygax Trust any funds. Unfortunately, on the heals of a press release regarding the "Gygax" trademark, it would seem certain individuals are out to sabotage the efforts of the GMF by engaging in wild speculation and mis-leading statements. This only serves to hurt the memory of E. Gary Gygax."

    It also seems that Gail Gygax has agreed to answer some questions about the GMF over at the blog Tenkar's Tavern.

    The Gygax Memorial Fund has a website. The fund was started about 6 years ago, shortly after the passing of Gary Gygax. In 2014 a proposal sketch of the statue/plinth was revealed (below). You can also read about it at Lake Geneva News.


    Comments 28 Comments
    1. mach1.9pants's Avatar
      mach1.9pants -
      There is wild speculation because nothing has been heard about the Memorial for a year! Charities need to be especially open and keep the communication going. Any negative press is filling the void left by no news, why aren't there monthly (at least) update of funding level and progress reports?

      All in all, not how a public charity should be run. I don't have any thoughts there is anything 'dodgy' going on but please keep us informed! In my mind I had written it off as not going to happen because it had all gone quiet, like a poorly run kickstarter!
    1. tenkar -
      The questions that will be presented to Gail Gygax will deal with the Gygax Memorial Fund and not the surrounding Gygaxian drama. I've had a number of questions submitted by the community to me already via comments on the blog side, G+, Facebook and email as well as other questions that have come to my mind.

      I've heard many rumors and I'm hoping the answers will clear things up for everyone involved.

      As for the Gygax Memorial Fund website itself, it's no secret that it hasn't been regularly updated. I was surprised to find to folks listed as involved with the fund that were surprised themselves to see that they were listed as involved with the fund. One of many things that will hopefully get cleared up.
    1. JohnRTroy's Avatar
      JohnRTroy -
      One thing that also should be established is that there was a "Gygax Family Memorial" (exact name) that was founded by some of Gary's Children, that was the one of the Dragon curled around a tower that appeared at an early GaryCon. Not sure if the funds for that were used for the current plaque in Lake Geneva or not.

      I figure it's important to point that out because a few people thought both were the same and vice versa, and people who may have contributed to one fund thinking they were united should realize both were separate entities.
    1. Umbran's Avatar
      Umbran -
      Quote Originally Posted by Sqn Cdr Flashheart View Post
      All in all, not how a public charity should be run.
      Yes, well, frequently the person in place to run a very small charity is not one who has a great administration skillset.

      It is very, very easy to point at others and say, "Look, they're doing it wrong!" Being critical is way, way easier than actually doing the job.
    1. mach1.9pants's Avatar
      mach1.9pants -
      Quote Originally Posted by Umbran View Post
      Yes, well, frequently the person in place to run a very small charity is not one who has a great administration skillset.

      It is very, very easy to point at others and say, "Look, they're doing it wrong!" Being critical is way, way easier than actually doing the job.
      You are entirely correct, it is easier to criticise than do. However Gail seems to have realised that you can get help like lawyers, so she should do the same with running a charity. But, imo, posting an update every month or so is both common sense and easy. And there would be a lot of people out there who would offer to help gratis
    1. dd.stevenson's Avatar
      dd.stevenson -
      Maybe it's just my imagination, but I suspect Gail suffers from subtle comparisons to Lorriane Williams.
    1. mach1.9pants's Avatar
      mach1.9pants -
      http://www.tenkarstavern.com/2015/11...l-fund_27.html

      A good list of questions from Tenkar
    1. Umbran's Avatar
      Umbran -
      Quote Originally Posted by Sqn Cdr Flashheart View Post
      You are entirely correct, it is easier to criticise than do. However Gail seems to have realised that you can get help like lawyers, so she should do the same with running a charity.
      Okay, so now she uses charity money to hire help, meaning the charity now needs *more* money?

      But, imo, posting an update every month or so is both common sense and easy.
      And, what if things develop slowly? The problem with regular communications is that they look really bad if there's nothing to say.

      And there would be a lot of people out there who would offer to help gratis
      Yeah, and how, pray tell, does Gail know which offers are worth taking? The volunteers likely live hundreds or thousands of miles away, remember. If a random person on the internet offers to help you manage money, do *you* take them up on it? Probably not. And how many gamers have the experience specifically for this kind of project? I've done some charity work, and that only amounted to about $10,000, with support from a much larger organization, and that was a great deal of effort that ate my life for some time.

      The point is that managing charities, even simple ones, is non-trivial.
    1. Cody C. Lewis's Avatar
      Cody C. Lewis -
      Man, those are some awfully tough questions being asked.

      It may seem like the community is frustrated, but they probably are.
    1. Mark CMG's Avatar
      Mark CMG -
      Quote Originally Posted by Umbran View Post
      I've done some charity work, and that only amounted to about $10,000, with support from a much larger organization, and that was a great deal of effort that ate my life for some time.

      The point is that managing charities, even simple ones, is non-trivial.

      And what does your experience tell you about transparency and proper management of a charity?
    1. tenkar -
      The questions certainly aren't easy ones. As of the end of 2013, the fund (according to their tax return that I was able to obtain) had over $222k in it's account. The questions dealing with the money and how much is needed before they can move forward with the project are legitimate questions. All the questions are legit.

      Now we just await the answers.
    1. delericho's Avatar
      delericho -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mark CMG View Post
      And what does your experience tell you about transparency and proper management of a charity?
      My experience of running a charity is that Umbran is right - very often the people left to actually run the thing are doing so as a labour of love, and not necessarily because they're the best people for the job. Very often, they're the only people for the job.

      That said, I've also found that while there are many things you can be flexible about, there are two things you must be absolutely scrupulous about handling, because even a hint of impropriety can destroy you. One of which is the money, which must all be clearly and openly accounted for. If you're not equipped to do that job properly, you either need to hire someone to do it for you, and accept the resultant cost, or you need to close down.

      (The other area of especial importance is the child protection (and other vulnerable groups). Of course, that doesn't apply here.)
    1. tenkar -
      Gail responded:
      http://www.tenkarstavern.com/2015/11...ommunitys.html
    1. Cody C. Lewis's Avatar
      Cody C. Lewis -
      @tenkar

      Did she really though?

      Hahaha
    1. MichaelSomething's Avatar
      MichaelSomething -
      http://www.gygaxmemorialfund.org/
      Here's a link to the the offical memorial site. Not much activity it seems. They don't even finish the "Tower of Gygax," whatever that means...
    1. tenkar -
      @dakotahorn - I chose my words carefully. Yes, she responded.
    1. Raphael Pinthus's Avatar
      Raphael Pinthus -
      Collected some hard info on the GMF and the GT over here:

      http://knights-n-knaves.com/phpbb3/v...13605&start=75

      Take your own conclusions, folks. - To me personally, this is a case for Hanlon's Razor. The Gygax Trust appears inept to a point where it makes my head spin.
    1. Morrus's Avatar
      Morrus -
      This thread is turning into a links directory. Please try and post more than just links, guys. Thanks!
    1. Raphael Pinthus's Avatar
      Raphael Pinthus -
      Your wish is my command, Lord Morrus! Just didn't want to spam the thread with stuff that makes for an easy read:

      ***From the K&K A.***

      "Woe is to the citizens of Greyhawk, when a man of Blackmoor has to come to their aid."

      - Rowell the Blade




      I am more worried about this:

      http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-_Zko6WBDGx...uU/zlPIt_ZyQfs
      /s1600/Screenshot%2B2015-11-25%2B11.25.51.png

      Typos on the website, gaaaah. Also, mainly, this:

      http://www.gygaxmemorialfund.org/fund-info/who-we-are

      Dianne Curtis/M.S. Ed., NCSP –Coordinator of Educational Programs and Special Projects

      Dianne brings to the Gygax Memorial Fund her unique credentials which lend another facet to our team. Sister-in-law of Gary Gygax, Dianne had weekly conversations with Gary, and she and Gary shared a standing “inside joke”—“no, Gail isn’t here, so you have to speak with me!” Dianne has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a master’s in school psychology and has completed doctoral studies in educational psychology at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. Dianne is a practicing school psychologist in the state of New Jersey at the high school level. Her professional interests include finding creative ways to provide therapeutic mental health services to adolescents and teaching social skills to adolescents with special needs utilizing role playing techniques. Dianne created an “in house” therapeutic program for students with mental health needs in her high school, which has been so successful that the model is now being utilized by several other high schools in northern New Jersey. Dianne has been assisting not only with the details of the fundraising for the Gygax Memorial statue project, but also with long range planning for educational programs and activities geared towards keeping Gary’s memory and contributions to gaming alive.


      Mike Curtis, MBA-Business Manager

      Brother-in-law of Gary Gygax, Mike brings to the fund his personal relationship with Gary and his expertise from a business standpoint. Mike holds an MBA from UCLA and is assisting the fund in both short and long-term business decisions. A major emphasis has been to keep operating costs low, so that preponderance of contributions to the fund are going to the building of the statue and other memorial projects. To demonstrate his commitment ot Gary, it was Mike who arranged for the Gygax Memorial Fund members to attend Gen Con 2012, paying all expenses out of pocket for the staff to attend. This trip allowed the GMF to bring more awareness to their fundraising efforts.


      So, her sister and her brother-in-law are the de-facto executors of the GMF? - Take your own conclusions, gentlemen, by looking closely at those two curricula. Those people likely have no clue what they're doing.


      FYI, this is the accountant of the GMF; rather than to Gail Gygax, in any interested fan's place, I'd direct my questions to him:

      http://www.ptindirectory.com/tax-pre...el-j-buttleman

      For tax preparation in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, you can count on Michael J. Buttleman at Mjb Accounting. Michael J. Buttleman assists taxpayers and small businesses with taxes in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and the surrounding communities. Whether you are an individual or a local business in or around Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Michael J. Buttleman has years of valuable experience as an IRS registered tax preparer. Contact Michael J. Buttleman, tax filing specialist in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, for help with your taxes.

      Mjb Accounting
      1017 Geneva St, Apt 4, Lake Geneva, WI 53147
      Phone: 262-903-0514

      Looking for the best local tax preparers located in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin?
      Michael J. Buttleman is a local tax preparer at Mjb Accounting located in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Michael J. Buttleman and other tax preparers located in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin will help you with tax preparation, tax planning, bookkeeping, estate and trust taxes, and so much more.

      How the GMF has been using money, specifically, of course is difficult to tell in detail... But here you find their short form tax report from 2013:

      http://990s.foundationcenter.org/990...1312_990EZ.pdf


      And, finally, here's to the two "writers" from the "publicity team" - under normal circumstances, those would also be the go-to guys for any sort of information:

      Ethan Gilsdorf - http://www.ethangilsdorf.com/

      Ezra Claverie - http://www.shadowoutofprovidence.com/about/


      I assume that this person is Tim Hutchings, who's listed as "audio visual engineer" - http://timothyhutchings.com/TH2/Timothy_Hutchings.html


      To be continued...
    1. Raphael Pinthus's Avatar
      Raphael Pinthus -
      ***Continued from the K&K.***

      Quote Originally Posted by Le Noir Faineant View Post
      How the GMF has been using money, specifically, of course is difficult to tell in detail... But here you find their short form tax report from 2013:

      http://990s.foundationcenter.org/990...1312_990EZ.pdf
      Bottom line is, GMF is collecting money, but not using it for anything. They're spending 1.166 $ for all sorts of maintenance stuff, which is a dick move, because they're effectively having no other expenses than anyone else working from home, plus probably minimal maintenance fees for the website. - A dick move, but legal.

      The clue for all internet detectives here is the employment of the Curtis husband and wife: They are billed with 1 hour per week, which really means, they come over for a coffee. Yet Gail's sister is employed for all the "soft" sectors of potential memorial fund activity. - Meaning that the problem is not the ugly-ass statue; the problem, in terms of possible money-laundering - because that's the implication that is really made here, let's face it - is with these "soft" sectors.

      The big caveat here is that between the GMF and the Gail Gygax Revocable Trust (GT) that presumably holds all Gary-Gygax-related IP, practical business reality will make a distinction between between the GMF and the Gygax Trust indistinguishable. - As in, how Mrs Gygax looks to practically separate her work in "long range planning for educational programs and activities geared towards keeping Gary’s memory and contributions to gaming alive" from promoting her trademarked brand or (future) copyrighted products. - In Engrish, what a lovely way to sell reprints, for example.

      Here's some additional info on the GT and how it operates, in principle:

      http://www.investopedia.com/terms/r/revocabletrust.asp

      http://www.findownersearch.com/owner...ny-brands.html


      ...And indeed, the trademarks "Gygax" and "Gygaxian" belong to them:

      https://trademarks.justia.com/867/17...-86717901.html

      https://trademarks.justia.com/858/66...-85866568.html


      Not going to write you guys another novel, just saying - after looking closely into this, I tend to share the many negative sentiments expressed in this thread. Let's hope this whole enterprise does not irrevocably damage Mr Gygax' memory.
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