The last few weeks have seen the inner workings of the Viper Club rise to the surface and it isn't pretty. Just last week, the President agreed to resign amidst the turmoil. He just rescinded that resignation and is now suspending anyone who tried to get him to resign.
The VCA President, Lee Stubberfield, had agreed to step down last week as part of a deal that would see the leadership of the Viper Club change in order to appease Chrysler and restore members' eroded faith in the board. According to a number of sources, Stubberfield changed his mind over the weekend when a series of emails were sent to members and local presidents, suspending them from the club.
Founding president and current secretary Maurice Liang was one of those that was suspended for the unspecific charge of "unauthorized and disruptive conduct." Here is how he was informed:
This is to notify you that effective as of the date of this notice, your membership in the VCA is suspended for disruptive conduct in accordance with the authority in the VCA Bylaws Article II, Section 3c. Additionally, along with your status as suspended member is loss of any VCA Membership rights and privileges including the disqualification to hold any position within the VCA. This means that you are no longer a director or hold any positions including being on the Magazine Committee.
Some specifics of your unauthorized and disruptive conduct that has directly harmed the Club include:
Continued non-compliance of Article V, Section 1 that states, no National Officer may contemporaneously hold a Region or Zone officer position. Despite being notified eight months ago and repeatedly thereafter that you would have to either resign your position as Northern California Region President or National Secretary, you have refused to comply with this requirement.
Direct violation of the Conflict of Interest, Confidentiality, Conduct and Insurance Policy. This includes your unauthorized alteration of the board approved form and specific violations of Article II (j) as well as incomplete disclosure of financial matters between you and SRT that could present a conflict of interest. Despite being notified of your violations on in this area you have refused to correct your actions..
Direct violation of the VCA Board decision relating to Jon Brobst attending VCA events while being suspended from the club. The board made you aware of this decision early in 2012. Despite that, you acted contrary to this board decision and facilitated meetings between Ralph Gilles and Jon Brobst at Northern California Region events. This undermining and contempt of a Board decision harmed the club in several ways, including degrading the relationship between the VCA and Ralph.
You informed Ralph of your opinion of a needed wholesale cleansing of the board. This is a flagrant and detrimental violation of the fiduciary obligation that you had as a director. It specifically and severely violates the abovementioned Policy relating to conduct. Just because you crossed out the section does not give you a free pass to violate that section.
Maurice, several of your actions that have been directly contrary to specific decisions of the board are not correctable. Month after month Randall, Dan, and I struggled to work with you despite your ongoing refusal to correct the items that you could. But even worse was the undermining by you that we observed. While you may not agree with things that don't go your way and have tossed out your cofounding status as a license to do whatever you want to, you were still obligated to abide by the rules of the club and the Conduct Policy.
To understand the level of financial conflict you have with SRT, you are required to submit full and detailed compensation agreements you have had relating to services you have provided them. Quite simply, the board needs to understand how much money or compensation is involved that you have gotten from SRT for books, trips, photos, etc. and if that is a factor in you placing the club in a secondary position in your statements. There will be no agenda item for your membership reinstatement until you have provided this information.
Maurice confirmed that he has been taken out of the club, and also let us know that his suspension was far from the only change on a day that makes the Viper Club look like a normal day in the Egyptian government.
The mention of communication with Jon Brobst is an interesting little nugget. Every single person I've spoken to in my research has said to get in touch with JonB, as he's known in the Viper circle. Maurice and Jon were both founding members and presidents of the Viper Club, and Jon owns the Viper Parts Rack. He used to sponsor the club before he was given a lifetime ban from the club a few years back, but still participated at times on a local level.
I contacted Jon about the conversation with Ralph and why it would lead to Maurice getting suspended. He said "The 'facilitated a meeting' is an outright lie. In fact, Liang asked that I 'remember that this is a holiday party, and please limit any discussions of politics' at the party, where PartsRack is a long-time sponsor."
It's not like you can't invite someone to a party they sponsor or force them to sit in a corner and not talk to Ralph Gilles.
I asked Maurice if this were true, and he was in 100 percent agreement with JonB:
Jon is correct. Jon just came to our holiday party, as dud [SIC] Ralph and 7 other SRT execs. There was no meeting, it was purely a social event. This is just one of numerous fabricated accusations. When he was originally suspended, we (region presidents) were told that it was our own decision if we wished to continue doing business with him. Partsrack advertises in our region magazine and sponsored the centerpieces for the holiday party, so when he asked if he could come to the party, I didn't see any reason to say no. He's always been a supporter of our (local) club.
Maurice also sent us the below letter, and it shows the level of changes that have occurred in the Viper Club in just the last few hours:
Dear fellow VCA Region Presidents,
As your national secretary, I wish to communicate some actions that have just occurred in the last couple of hours. You may wish to pass this along to your members as well.
As we had announced, the Board of Directors had reached an agreement with Lee Stubberfield to resign as president, and give us his letter of resignation by the end of last week. He asked for some additional time to write the letter over the weekend, which we agreed to. However, Mr. Stubberfield has chosen to not honor the agreement and instead, has taken some aggressive actions.
This morning, Mr. Stubberfield has sent out the following announcements:
- Suspended SW Zone Director Jim Johnson as a member of VCA for "disruptive conduct" (for leaking the Chrysler letter, though no proof has been shown that he did)
- Assigned Ron Kooser as replacement SW Zone Director
- Suspended our national VP, Randall Arnold as a member of VCA, for disruptive conduct (for attempting to "seize power")
- Appointed national Treasurer, Dan Everts, as replacement Vice President
- Assigned presidential powers to Dan Everts (although it appears Mr. Stubberfield has not stepped down from office)
- Suspended national Secretary, (Maurice Liang) as a member of VCA for "unauthorized and disruptive conduct".
There may be more announcements coming, but since I have been suspended, I will not be able to communicate them to you.
I regret that our once proud club has deteriorated to this level. I fail to see how the above actions will help us restore trust from you and our members in the national office, or with Chrysler/SRT. I can tell you that the Board of Directors was united and working together the past couple of weeks with those goals in mind.
Whether you support or disagree with these actions, it's time to take action and express your views to the club's new leadership. It IS supposed to be YOUR club.
Viper Club of America
Furthermore, regional presidents are now resigning left and right as well as zone directors. A letter forwarded to us indicates that the Houston region of the VCA is voting on whether to secede from the national club. Maybe it's the first step before all of Texas secedes? We've also heard that the Motor City, NorCal, Illinois (In this strongly worded letter), and Oregon chapters have already seceded from the club. This is a grade A shit show now. But why? This is a car club.
Aren't car clubs for fun? Aren't they supposed to foster enthusiasm for the brand and not make members feel like an enemy of their own club? (Requests for comment from Mr. Stubberfield have not been returned)
Members have described the Viper Club, in private conversations, as less of a club and more of a dictatorship to benefit a select few. We've already seen that Chrysler was looking to distance itself from the Viper Club with its strongly worded letter to Mr. Stubberfield, and these new developments within the organization cannot be helping.
As far as we can tell, Lee Stubberfield is still the president and the business relationship with former president Chris Marshall's Viper Parts of America continues. But with this level of drama behind the scenes, how much longer will the club be around in its current form?