AYPN 'Moving Forward' After E-mails Leaked

by Nate Hinkel  on Monday, Dec. 3, 2007 12:00 am  

Arkansas Young Professionals Network Executive Director William Porterfield, foreground, and other members of the nonprofit's leadership meet last Wednesday at the Law Offices of Gary Green in Little Rock.

A fast-growing organization dedicated to developing professionalism among young Arkansans is trying to "move forward" after the public airing of internal e-mails suggesting an effort to ensure that the Arkansas Young Professionals Network was controlled by politically conservative men.

The e-mails, some with subject lines reading "AYPN Mastermind Note," refer to the group's plan as "a living document that began with our first meeting at Buffalo Grill and is daily becoming the document that will take AYPN and us ... as its directors, to the next level," according to one written in late January by AYPN Executive Director William Porterfield.

Another one, written Feb. 2 by Craig Boes, director of AYPN's membership committee, says, "In order to keep people from thinking our organization is discriminatory we should probably appoint a female to this position. And since we have a choice she might as well be attractive."

The e-mails appeared publicly Oct. 18 on two Web logs, the Arkansas Times' daily blog and "Blake's Think Tank," overseen by Blake Rutherford, director of public communications at Stone Ward advertising agency. Both Max Brantley, editor of the Arkansas Times, and Rutherford say the e-mail packages were dropped off anonymously that day. A source who asked to remain unnamed shared the e-mails with Arkansas Business last week.

The e-mails signaled efforts to sway the civic organization's February 2007 leadership election in favor of select Republicans and somehow parlay that into the leadership of the Arkansas Federation of Young Republicans.

For example, one reads, "I've attached a listing of our members who joined since 1/1/06. These are the prime candidates for swaying this election."

The internal fallout from the e-mails was less than dramatic: Two members - both female - resigned from leadership positions with AYPN. No other changes have been made.

Yolanda Hugg, who has held various leadership roles with AYPN and is the current national committeewoman with the Young Republicans, and Karen Junot, former director of AYPN's professional development committee, both resigned their positions with AYPN because of the e-mails.

Hugg at first did not want to comment for this story, but later issued this statement by e-mail to Arkansas Business:

"I have gained a lot from AYPN both professionally and personally," Hugg wrote. "However, whether intentionally or unintentionally the current leadership has created a culture of exclusion that has focused more on their own personal advancement than the advancement of the organization and its members. As a board member, I felt like I was not able to fully participate and be taken seriously as a leader by my peers on the AYPN Board of Directors, which is why I resigned. I wish AYPN and the current leadership well and hope some productive change can take place as a result of this situation."

Junot's statement echoed Hugg's, but she added that AYPN should not be judged by the actions of a few.

"It's a great group and it has a great mission, but I couldn't stay in a leadership position after having seen how a select group within was operating," she said.

Randall Dixon, director of AYPN's communications committee, who was not among the group of e-mailers, said AYPN's leaders did meet and discuss the e-mails shortly after they became public but decided not to take action against directors who were involved.



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