Monday, July 28, 2014

Transgender woman gets $4,000 in settlement she claims smacks of unfairness

No one takes any blame in the mediated settlement the U.S. Department of Justice arranged recently between an Athens, TX, RV park owner and a transgender woman and her female partner who alleged discrimination.

In the settlement order dated July 9, George Toone, owner of Texan RV Park, continued to deny the discrimination allegations, but he agreed to pay Roxann Joganik and Darlina Anthony $4,000 to settle the case. Both the defendants and the complainants agreed in the settlement they would make no negative or critical comments of the other, and they agreed not to reveal any communications between them after reaching the agreement.

Joganik said that while she could not make any statements about the RV park owner, she criticized the Department of Justice for its handling of the case. Most discrimination cases get larger settlements, she claimed.

“I didn’t get a fair deal because I’m transgender,” Joganik said. “They don’t give a hoot.”

Joganik said she believes the average settlement in a discrimination case taken on by the Department of Justice would be at least three times what she received.

Joganik said she believed the federal employees who assisted her failed to “understand what it means to be transgender,” which led them to seek a quick, easy settlement.

The federal employees appeared to be as prejudiced against her as anyone else, Joganik said.

"I hate the Department of Justice," Joganik said. "I hope I never have to deal with them again."

The Department of Justice's website includes a section devoted to LGBTI individuals. It includes a quote from Asst. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez. "On an issue of basic equality and fundamental fairness for all Americans ... we have come too far in our struggle for equal justice under the law to remain silent or stoic when our LGBT brothers and sisters are still being mistreated and ostracized for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with their skills or abilities and everything to do with myths, stereotypes, fear of the unknown and prejudice."

The media attention the case attracted led to Joganik's current landlord telling her not to allow a reporter to return to the RV park, she said. "It's hard for me to find a place to live," she said.

Joganik is now living in her third RV park since she began her transition from male to female.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a charge of discrimination in August against the Athens RV park owner after investigating a complaint by the transgender woman and her female partner who now live in Seven Points.

The action was believed to be one of the first few investigations by HUD to proceed to the trial stage since the federal agency adopted a new policy in March 2012 banning discrimination against LGBT people.

If the charge of discrimination had been upheld in a federal administrative hearing or a U.S. federal district court the park owner could have been fined $16,000 and been required to reimburse the complainants for damages. The damages could have included moving expenses and compensation for emotional distress.

Joganik and Anthony filed the complaint in the summer of 2012 against George and Amy Toone and In Toone Services, LLC, owners of Texan RV Park on Highway 175 West in Athens. The complainants alleged that the Toones discriminated against them on the basis of sex on May 15, 2012, and again on Aug. 18, 2012.

After the park owner refused to accept a rent payment from them and successfully pursued an eviction in now-deceased Justice of the Peace Henry S. Ashford's court in Henderson County, Joganik offered to move to her son's residence so Anthony could remain, according to the couple. The park owner again refused to accept the rent payment, leading to the dual charge, they said.

The pair amended the complaints in February 2013 to add charges of harassment and intimidation after the Toones, who were represented by Dallas lawyer Casey Erick, allegedly "sought and assisted in the publication of articles on a campground management website," according to the complaint outlined in HUD documents.

The articles allegedly contained "inaccurate and negative information about complainant Joganik for the purpose of harassing and intimidating her" in violation of federal law, according to the allegations in the documents.

The Toones denied the allegations of discrimination, claiming that the complainants' recreational vehicle did not "constitute a dwelling" and should be exempt from the federal housing law. They claimed the owners of the recreational vehicles in the park were not tenants, but instead guests.

The respondents also maintained that Joganik and Anthony were asked to leave the park because Joganik would not sign the park rules, the pair disrupted other guests' use of the park and that Joganik had killed park wildlife. Joganik identified the wildlife as turtles in a pond that were eating the bait off her fish hooks.

Federal officials found "reasonable cause" of "discriminatory housing practices" by the park owner in the case, according to HUD documents in the possession of the complainants. But the officials rejected the complaint against the owner's wife and the allegations of intimidation and harassment.

Joganik and Anthony previously said they were confident they would prevail in the HUD proceedings.

A spokeswoman for Texan RV Park said the owner would have no comment about the case at the time it was filed. Erick, the attorney representing the owner, did not return phone messages left at his office.
To contact the LGBTI Working Group or to report acts of violence or discrimination send an email to or visit

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Lucky the Jackshund joins The Rare Reporter

Mickey the Schnauzer seemed a little lonely so I began looking for him a friend.

I've added Lucky to the household whose breed took a while to determine. Born Jan. 17, 2014, Lucky revealed himself to be a cross between a Jack Russell Terrier and a Dachshund.

He is quite the little devil, but he is settling into the household nicely.

Mickey who is seven is playing like a puppy since Lucky's arrival. It was a good decision.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Cedar Creek Lake mayor promises end to police surveillance of gay bar

Retiring is such a hard thing to do, especially for an old reporter who knows the story might not be told unless he steps up.

That's where I found myself this week when I heard about what I perceived to be an injustice. I tried to ignore it all, but my conscience would not allow it after I learned law enforcement activity on Cedar Creek Lake seemed to be targeting my community.

This is what I learned about the lake's only LGBT bar being surrounded by police cars at the end of the evening last weekend. 

In the wake of widespread social media conversations and perplexity on the part of local gay leaders, Mayor Paul Eaton promised surveillance of patrons of Gun Barrel City gay bar Garlow's would end immediately.

In an interview after the Cedar Creek Lake Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon on April 10, Eaton said he met with the owner of the gay bar and the city's police chief that morning and had resolved the problems.

"I hopped on it as soon as I heard about it," Eaton said. "We don't want to be known for that."

On April 5 following a drag show at the gay bar, patrons leaving the bar met as many as five squad cars sitting outside of the bar, Drivers who failed to signal whether they were turning left or right were stopped, according to sources at the scene. Several DUI arrests were made.

One squad car followed the operator of the bar as he attempted to walk home and and handcuffed and jailed him on a charge of public intoxication, allegedly without testing him for intoxication.

A survey of other nightclubs in Gun Barrel City revealed Garlow's was the only bar targeted for the operation.

Employees of the bar said surveillance by Gun Barrel City police cars had been ongoing for weeks.

Eaton said he did not believe the operation could be attributed to "gay bashing," but he condemned the arrest of the bar's operator. "That was ridiculous," he said.

"It was a misunderstanding," Eaton said. "It is the busiest bar around. They were looking for drunks and drugs."

Eaton said the police chief had met with the police officers prior to the meeting with the gay bar's owner. The police chief "had already taken care of the problem," he said.

New police officers have joined the police force recently.

"I regret it happened," Eaton added.

Slingerland said after his arrest on the public intoxication charge that he pleaded no contest and paid the $352 fine. There are no plans to pursue the matter further, he said.

"I didn't want to make it about me," Slingerland said. "It's about the bar and the people. I just wanted it to stop."

City Manager Gerry Boren said the police chief continues to examine the situation in an informal review.

Boren said the number of squad cars reported to be involved at Garlow's does not add up. There are only two cars on duty at a time so the only way there could have been more than two cars at the bar at the same time would be if it happened during a shift change, he said.

To have more than four on the scene would require the presence of county law enforecement officers in cars being present as well, Boren said. The county has two cars in the area, he said.

"It's practically impossible," Boren said.

Boren said he is confident the police chief who has been on the force for 15 years would not condone anti-gay bias, and that there are no prejudiced officer on the force.

"But if that perception is out there, I need to change it," Boren said. "I have challenged the police chief to change it. It's a human factor."

Boren said the police department has received complaints about drunks on the highway, but no complaints about Garlow's specifically.

Gay bars have operated in the Cedar Creek Lake area for at least two decades, and they have not experienced problems with law enforcement. Cedar Creek Lake has a large population of retired LGBT residents and weekenders.

The owner of Garlow's, Michael Slingerland, contributed $1,000 to Eaton's re-election campaign, and there is a campaign sign supporting the mayor outside of the bar.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Rare Reporter takes a hiatus, indefinitely

When I first started writing about LGBT issues in 1982 for the mainstream media, I was one of the few journalists examining the subject. That's changed dramatically over the past three decades.

My coverage of the issues started with the AIDS epidemic, a couple of years before medical scientists identified HIV. Something sinister was taking the lives of gay men in terrifying numbers, and scientists suspected a blood-borne virus to be the culprit.

As the decade progressed I realized I wanted to write about the LGBT rights movement, and I began that with the mainstream media at Texas newspapers including Dallas Times Herald, continued it with a job at a straight alternative publication Dallas Observer, freelanced for national LGBT publications from California to New York, monitored anti-LGBT hate crimes during a stint at  Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, AL, and finally worked full-time for an LGBT publication Dallas Voice.

In 2008 I left the Dallas Voice's staff and moved to Cedar Creek Lake, but I've remained as busy as ever writing about LGBT issues as a freelancer for the Voice and other publications across the nation and for this blog, The Rare Reporter.

I'm proud of my work, and I have no regrets. I like to think I've made a contribution to my community, but it's time to retire from the beat. I want to pursue other interests, and I will never do that if I continue following the ever advancing LGBT rights movement. I never dreamed 30 years ago I would witness such dramatic developments in my lifetime.

I will always report and write about what intrigues me, but it willl no longer be about the LGBT rights movement, anti-gay hate crimes, the HIV epidemic, the LGBT media or any other related issue for my blog or the LGBT media.

I will continue publishing my blog about other subjects that interest me, and I will continue writing for and The Monitor, a Cedar Creek Lake newspaper owned by Media One. I also plan to continue writing about general issues  for because it represents the community to which I now belong.  If an important local LGBT story arises I will report it for the local publications as any responsible journalist should, but my coverage of LGBT issues will no longer be a speciality.

I made this decision at the end of the year with the knowledge that there are many well-qualified journalists covering LGBT issues today and the belief that it is time to leave the coverage to younger minds. It has not escaped my attention that we often think quite differently.

Everything comes to an end at some point, but it's not the end of The Rare Reporter. There will be more stories, but I plan to explore the world a bit more broadly.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Mr. Mickey joins The Rare Reporter

It didn't take even a whole week for The Rare Reporter to acquire a new canine companion after Queenie's death Nov. 11. Mr. Mickey, a 6-year-old schnauzer, arrived Nov. 17.

Happy Tails, a Cedar Creek Lake animal rescue group run by founder Tina Hamilton, delivered him for foster care until an adoption could be arranged. But within a couple of hours, The Rare Reporter decided Mr. Mickey would be remaining permanently.

Mr.Mickey and The Rare Reporter are still getting used to each other, but it looks like everything will be just hunky dory.

Within minutes of Mr. Mickey and The Rare Reporter meeting, the song, "Only Love Can Break a Heart," played on the car radio. The next verse was "only love can mend it again." It was a clear sign that Mr. Mickey should become a member of the household because that song had played on the radio upon the death of another beloved pet's death earlier.

Mr. Mickey left behind a female mate at the house where he formerly lived where the husband and wife got a divorce. They decided to give up the dogs. He was supposed to arrive with her, but the wife decided at the last moment to keep his female mate.

If the wife decides later to give up Mr. Mickey's mate, I will adopt her too.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Queenie the Schnoodle takes final trip

Queenie came to live with me in August 2003 when she was four-weeks-old. She fit in the palms of my hands.

She grew to be a beautiful white Schnoodle who was by my side most of those 10-plus years. She loved to go for rides in the car with me.

For the past week she had been sick at her stomach, and the medications didn't seem to help. After a particularly rough weekend, I took her to the vet this morning for extensive testing. It turned out she had liver cancer, and she was suffering greatly from it. She lost 12 pounds during the last year.

So it turned out to be her last car ride, and I miss her very much.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Public safety activists warn 65-year-old pipeline threatens Texas lake; legislator seeks meeting with ExxonMobil

SEVEN POINTS, TX  – Three Arkansas residents who witnessed the spill of 200,000 gallons of a toxic petroleum product into a Lake Conway neighborhood seven months ago traveled six hours and 330 miles to tell their story to Cedar Creek Lake residents, but local public officials failed to show up to hear them speak at the Oct. 5 town hall meeting.

Public safety activists from Dallas urged concerned residents at the meeting to “make enough noise” to attract the attention of the public officials who missed the forum about the failed 65-year-old Pegasus Pipeline. They suggested the residents target elected city, county and state officials, as well as water district board members.

Public Citizen and Safe Community Alliance sponsored the forum at the Seven Points Recreation Center. It featured speakers who warned residents about the risk of a local environmental catastrophe if the 20-inch diameter pipeline operated by ExxonMobil transporting diluted tar sands bitumen is allowed to resume operation. It ruptured in Mayflower, Ark., on March 29.

The Pegasus Pipeline runs through the communities of Kemp, Mabank, Gun Barrel City and Seven Points, including a path under the lake and through Tom Finley Park. The environmentalists warned that a similar rupture could occur on Cedar Creek Lake.

"We feel like it might not be a matter of if, but when there is a tar sands spill," said Rita Beving, a Texas-based lobbyist with Public Citizen, a national Washington, D.C.-based group.

Gun Barrel City resident Price Howell said the small number of people attending the town hall meeting and the absence of public officials concerned him. He noted the organizations distributed 3,000 fliers in the Cedar Creek Lake area to advertise the meeting.

Howell has worked for several months trying to raise concerns about the pipeline among Cedar Creek Lake residents since he learned that it runs through his property in Harbor Point Estates. “I’m really disappointed,” he said.

Beving urged residents who are concerned about the antiquated pipeline to complain to local city and county officials, water district officials and state legislators. "You've got to make enough noise to get their attention," she said.

Beving said residents need to ask their public officials if they are prepared for an emergency response and an evacuation if there should be an environmental disaster on Cedar Creek Lake.

A request for a show of hands at the meeting revealed no one identifying themselves as a public official, although one member of the East Cedar Creek Lake Fresh Water Supply Board of Directors was in the audience.

Organizers of the meeting said they invited public officials, including representatives of the Tarrant Regional Water District, to attend.

"We were told Saturdays were not good," said Steven Joseph DaSilva, one of the founders of Safe Community Alliance, in reference to TRWD officials. "They seem to be assuaged by the line Exxon Mobil has given them."

ExxonMobil officials have declined interviews about the pipeline, but they contend in written statements that the company manages its pipelines with advanced technology that conforms to federal regulations, according to a recent report in The Dallas Morning News. The inspections include monitoring by aircraft and interior pipeline devices.

In the most recent press release issued by ExxonMobil about the Arkansas disaster dated May 29, the company said significant progress had been made in cleaning up the spill. “Progress continues, but we know our work is not complete,” said Mark Weesner, ExxonMobil incident commander. “We will be here until the job is done.

 “While I know you have heard us say it many times before, we truly regret the spill continues to impact many in the community and are appreciative of everyone’s continued patience. We are working hard to get the job done as quickly and safely as possible.”

 Lawsuits are pending against ExxonMobil for the accident in Arkansas as well as one in Montana on the Yellowstone River two years earlier. The lawsuits maintain that Irving, TX-based ExxonMobil was negligent in its maintenance of its 8,000-mile U.S. pipeline network.

The speakers at the town hall meeting in Seven Points included Arkansas residents who witnessed the March 2013 spill in Mayflower on Lake Conway that poured 200,000 gallons of the petroleum product into a neighborhood before it flowed into the lake. The pipeline ruptured as a result of its age and the pressure inside it, according to the speakers. ExxonMobil officials described it as a system failure.

The area remains contaminated after months of clean-up efforts with only 84,000 gallons of the toxic material being collected, according to the activists. The spill exposed the Arkansas residents to the carcinogen benzene and six other dangerous chemicals, according to Environmental Working Group's report "Poisons in the Pipeline."

Residents reported a "horrible smell" and being unable to breathe and of experiencing burning in their throats, noses and eyes, the report said. No evacuation occurred.

Lake Conway, which was a popular fishing lake, is still  contaminated, according to environmentalists. A bubbling oil sheen remains on the lake, according to pictures taken last week and showed at the town hall meeting.

The pipeline was shut down by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration after the spill. ExxonMobil officials want to reopen the pipeline once repairs are made, according to opponents of the plan who are organizing a petition drive to shut it down permanently.

Bevings told the Cedar Creek Lake residents they needed to contact their state legislators and ask them, “What are you going to do to protect Texans? This is a Texas issue.” The audience erupted in applause when Bevings said, “This isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue.”

The activists said Texas legislators and other state officials have been “eerily silent” about the pipeline since its rupture in Arkansas.
Texas State Rep. Lance Gooden told the Cedar Creek Lake Area Chamber of Commerce he plans to meet with ExxonMobil officials about the 65-year-old failed Pegasus Pipeline running through Cedar Creek Lake.

Gooden said he had discussed the pipeline with Tarrant Regional Water District officials, and he asked for a meeting with the oil company's officials. The pipeline, which ruptured in Mayflower, Ark., March 29 and poured 200,000 gallons of diluted tar sands bitumen into the Lake Conway neighborhood, has been shut down for seven months by the federal government.

"I would think that we don't want that to be reactivated if we can prevent it," Gooden said.

The legislator said that like most Cedar Creek Lake residents, he also had never heard about the pipeline and its course through the Cedar Creek Lake area until recently when people alarmed about the Arkansas rupture started contacting him.

Beving said another concern about the transport of diluted sand tar bitumen is that it is not considered a crude oil so it is exempt by the Internal Revenue Service from contributions to the U.S. Spill Liability Fund. Companies transporting crude oil must pay an eight-cents per barrel levy into the fund for clean ups, she said. “Who would bear the liability?” she asked.

Prior to the spill in Arkansas, few people in the Cedar Creek Lake area realized the pipeline runs through the outskirts of Mabank, Gun Barrel City, and Seven Points on its way to Corsicana, and then to Beaumont and Nederland, Texas. Its route takes it under the middle of Cedar Creek Lake. It runs past Mabank High School, 505 Ranch Estates and the polo field, underneath Gun Barrel City Airpark's tarmac, through Harbor Point Estates, under Tom Finley Park and under Cedar Creek Lake Reservoir. It is buried only two-feet deep in the Cedar Creek Lake area. In other areas, such as near the Red River, it is exposed.

The pipeline was built in 1948, almost 20 years before Cedar Creek Lake was constructed in the mid-1960s. It was designed for the transport of diesel oil, but ExxonMobil purged the system in 2002, then reversed the flow and started transporting sand tars bitumen in 2006. The 850-mile pipeline runs from Nederland, TX, to Patoka, IL, passing through and crossing several tributaries that lead to drinking supplies.

The substance, which is a mined material from Canada that resembles asphalt, contains neurotoxins and carcinogens, according to the environmental organization. The substance is processed to remove the sand so it can be used for petroleum products.

DaSilva said ExxonMobil touted the repurposing of the pipeline for diluted tar sands bitumen as “the first of its kind” in the petroleum industry. The activist called it a “failed experiment,” saying, “Unfortunately the communities the pipeline ran through were treated as if they were expendable, like lab rats.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently released a 630-page redacted report on inline testing of the portion of the pipeline running from Arkansas to Corsicana, according to Safe Community Alliance. The document was made available by the efforts of U.S. Rep.Tim Griffin of Arkansas (
griffin-releases-new-mayflower-pre-spill-reports-and-data-after-receiving-phmsa). It was prepared for ExxonMobil Pipeline Company by NDT Systems and Services. Inc.

The report lists thousands of anomalies on 206 pages, according to the group.

The group maintains that based on the report there are at least eight problems that were discovered in the ½"-wall of the pipeline under Cedar Creek Lake. The roughly one mile of pipeline that runs from the water's edge, under Tom Finley park, through the neighborhood of Harbor Point Estates, and then underneath the Gun Barrel City Airpark tarmac had as many as twenty six anomalies. Here the pipe is 3/8" thick, or less.

The group has reported problems that include mill anomalies, an internal problem that resulted during the pipe's manufacture; metal loss anomalies, most of which are the result of corrosion, and long seam anomalies, problems along the lengthwise joint where the pipe was welded.

The group claims that ExxonMobil Pipeline Company knew about these problems by the end of 2010, yet they continued to risk the health and safety of this and many communities by continuing to pump diluted tar sands bitumen through their unsafe pipeline. ExxonMobil officials have countered that they had no indication that the pipeline would rupture.

A similar spill occurred in 2010 in Michigan when a pipeline owned by Embridge ruptured spilling 840,000 gallons of diluted tar sands bitumen into the Kalamazoo River. The river remains contaminated three years later, according to environmentalists. That spill has cost $850 million in clean-up costs so far, according to environmentalists.