JL Kirk & Associates SLAPPs Katherline Coble

Coble, K. 2007. This entry for a limited time only. Just Another Pretty Face. April 11, 2007. Available online: http://mycropht.wordpress.com/2007/04/11/this-entry-for-a-limited-time-only/.

Instapundit, Pink Kitty, Moncks Corner Moments, thinktrain, Say Uncle, and The Vol Abroad link to disturbing news:

The doorbell rang 5 minutes ago.

It was delivery of a certified letter.

I am being ordered to take down all of my blog entries pertaining to JL Kirk & Associates. If I don’t, they will so me for tortuous interference and other damages.

In a subsequent conversation with the attorney, Alan Kopady of King & Ballow Law Offices, if I do not take down the blog entries they will contact my Internet Service Provider, Comcast, to have my internet access shut down.

I have until April 13th to comply with the demands of the letter.

An excellent summary of the controversy so far is available from Nashville is Talking. This appears to be a SLAPP — a strategic lawsuit against public participation

Some of the communication between the blogger and the SLAPP is below the fold:


The original post:

JL Kirk & Associates found my husband’s resume online. They contacted him a couple of weeks ago and offered their services as an ‘Executive Placement Firm’. As I’m wont to do, I of course Googled them as much as possible and found very little in the way of solid information. So I’ve decided to write up our experiences with them for anyone else who is interested in finding out more about this particular operation.

Anyone who has been searching for a job for any length of time is well aware of the various vulnerabilities that are part of the process. There’s the self-doubt, frustration and impatience, coupled with no small amount of worry. So when a job searcher gets an email that says “maybe we can help!” the relief is almost immediate.

My husband filled out an application and questionnaire, and returned it directly to the company. He then received an appointment with a counselor the following week. During that appointment the representative of JL Kirk & Associates interviewed him just as one would for a position. The afternoon after the interview he received an email that congratulated him on making it through the first step of the process. They wanted to schedule a second interview which required my presence as a Support Person/Spouse/Significant Other. When he scheduled the interview he questioned them directly about their fees and payment arrangements. He was told that if we received approval after the second interview the money would be discussed at that time.

So today was the second interview, and we drove to Maryland Farms for our 2:00 appointment. We sat in a waiting room next to a fake fireplace and a lone man in a suit. At 2:11 a matronly woman came out and announced to the other man–in front of us–that she would not be able to meet with him because he wasn’t able to bring his Support Person. They had a lengthy conversation in front of us about this failed meeting and his disappointment. He asked to speak with her behind closed doors (as would I) and then five minutes later that conversation ended with him leaving dejectedly. She then turned to us (it is now 2:17pm) and greeted us warmly.

We were led into an office that appeared to have been the result of a decorating war between a loan officer and an eccentric grandmother. The prototypical office furniture clashed with a giant print of Raffael’s Cherubs a reproduction oriental rug and a handmade mosaic table with a tilted top. The Husband and I were seated in two chairs across from the interviewer, who sat on a sofa next to a pile of throw pillows.

Here’s where the fun starts. We heard all about how hard it is to find a job, how most jobs aren’t posted online and are only found through networking. We heard about how the really good jobs are available only to those ‘in the know’ and can only be obtained through some wizardy combining Masonic handshakes, good dentistry and whatever pixie dust this particular company stores in the backroom. This interview seemed very carefully designed to exploit every potential vulnerability that any jobseeker feels. After about 10 minutes of conversation subtly designed to push every button we may have, the interviewer handed us a booklet that was said to be a tailored write-up of my husband’s profile as a job-seeker. The interviewer left us alone in the room to digest the booklet on our own terms.

The booklet consisted of three pages of reiteration of the interview’s strong-arm tactics, followed by a regurgitation of information from my husband’s resume, all summarised with a couple of pages essentially saying “the job market is tough but we think you’re really great and so we’ll be here to help you get a job!” We skimmed the booklet and reviewed our game plan, then signaled the interviewer by opening the door.

Our game plan was to ask direct questions about the company’s operation and placement record. In short, ‘what exactly do you do and how well do you do it?’ We had test answers in mind. In short, if we ask a direct question and get a vague answer such as “every case is different so numbers are hard to apply here” that tells us a great deal about the company’s services.

Sure enough, our first question about placement rate was answered with an “every case is different, etc.” style answer. Ultimately she gave us the figure of “90 to 92% placement rate” and then proceeded to tell us a long tale about a ‘failed’ client who showed up 37 minutes late to an interview with a CEO from an out-of-state firm. We all agreed that was indeed very unprofessional of said client and what a shame and how good to not work with him. (I of course was thinking about how we were on time for that interview which she failed to start until 17 minutes after the promised appointment time.)

She then gave us the very good news that they were prepared to accept us as clients. Then the fun began. We were told that Headhunters and Employment Agencies took fees only when a job had been secured for the job seeker, and they took their fees (generally 30-40%) from the hiring firm. But that means the job seeker gets a lower starting salary because all of their good money is going to the headhunter/employment agency. Thankfully, though, JL Kirk & Associates will be able to get my husband a job making a far larger starting salary. All we need to do is put $4,420 on a credit card today. Once we do that the entire weight of the firm of JL Kirk & Associates will begin the task of navigating treacherous shark-infested landmines of the job search on behalf of my husband. And just trust them, because they find jobs for 90% of the people who pay them to.

So that’s how it works. And that’s pretty much how we expected that it would work. But both the spouse and I believe that it’s irrepsonsible to not pursue any lead during this time so we thought we’d go through the process. Especially since they kept so much of it in the dark from the outset.

JUICY STUFF BEGINS HERE
But I’m very angry about it. If you’ve made it this far, I suppose maybe you could tell that I’ve been supressing most of my irritation. However, irritation makes for good blog reading, and so here it is.

I get really ticked off at people trying to use fear to motivate others. I don’t care if you are a fire-and-brimstone preacher, an insurance salesman, a used-car salesman or a cat burglar. Finding someone else’s fear and vulnerability and using that vulnerability to somehow enrich yourself is a cheap and underhanded tactic. It’s wrong and it’s cruel. And I think that’s exactly what this placement firm did to us today. There were times when I felt like I was sitting across from a spider. We were meant to feel at home enough to let down our guard so that the woman could then ply us gently with tales of terror. All of it was designed to make us hand over nearly $5,000 without question and without possibility of a refund.

The husband and I are not always idiots. We both expect to pay for services rendered from any provider. But we generally like to be treated as responsible adults. We had legitimate questions about the fee structure and we raised those at several points in the process. For them to not even discuss that fee structure until they had battered us emotionally for half an hour is what I would consider to be unethical. I’m sure there are other employment agencies and headhunters out there. We’ll continue to look for them.

In the meantime, I would discourage anyone who stumbles across this entry from even going through the JL Kirk & Associates “interview process”.

UPDATE

I should also mention that this company was formerly Bernard Haldane before it was purchased by Mr. Kirk Leipzig. One of the accusations against Bernard Haldane was that they would make an examination of the potential client’s assets and charge accordingly. I find it interesting to note just how close our “fee” was to the tax refund we recently received. Hmmm. Makes you wonder, no?

In the interest of fairness, Coble posted a respones from the company:

In response to those who choose to hide behind pseudo names, anonymous postings, and Mrs. Katherine Coble herself, I will respond to the blog herein; I am the matronly, eccentric grandmother, with the tackily decorated office within J.L. Kirk Associates.

There is a cultural phenomenon regarding information regurgitated on the internet. It seems there is a segment of our techno-access population who believe; if the written word resides on the internet, regardless of platform or source, it MUST be true! This is a sad testament to our information starved population, who use the internet as their link to the outside world. This platform/blog typifies the “mob” mentality, so for that reason, I will address and defend the fabrications written herein.

For those who are unaware, the Bernard Haldane organization no longer exists in Tennessee or to my knowledge anywhere in the United States. This is a fact. Mr. Kirk purchased the remaining assets of the BH organization here in Brentwood, changed the philosophy, company mission, replaced every BH employee, and put his name of the door! [1]Does this sound like a person who is hiding? As part of the purchase, he inherited the liabilities as well; unhappy clients who were hurt by former unethical practices he had no part in delivering. The price to appease those clients and put his business on the “moral” road to recovery was in excess of $154,000. Does this sound like a scammer? He was not ordered by any court or official, he did it to end the reign of BH and all the negativity.

I will now address. Katherine Coble’s accusations. It is important to know that when I met Mrs. Coble and her husband, neither was gainfully employed. Mr. Coble placed his resume on a free internet job site looking for employment. As a result of his resume posting, by his own admission Mr. Coble has received dozens of emails from the insurance industry, work at home, get rich quick, etc. (Had Mr. Coble accepted a position selling insurance for example, he would have had to pay for his own education, paid for his license, and waited for any possible compensation if/when he sold a policy.) Apparently these unsolicited offers are less offensive than a genuine offer of help – which I will address in detail further in this post. [2]

During the initial interview with my colleague, it was mentioned that Mr. Coble is an avid cyclist and a member [3]of a fledgling not for profit group. It is his hope to make this his career in approximately 2 years. With no motive other than to be helpful, my colleague put Mr. Coble in touch with a cycle/marketing person, name, telephone number and personal introduction. Further, Mrs. Coble was given a publishing contact as she is apparently an aspiring writer. In both cases, with no motive whatsoever, my colleague offered the contacts and use of her name – to the Coble’s, two perfect strangers! What was the result of the contacts? I have no idea (and as a simple gesture is irrelevant); [4] however, it is not part of our job description to provide ANYTHING to individuals during a screening interview. I read nowhere in this blog where your hostess thanked my colleague for her kindness. None was expected, so it makes my colleague the bigger person.

Our business model provides that we are able to grant services to approximately 225-250 clients per year. A scam would know no limits as to the number of clients per year – as the goal would be to reap as many fees as possible. Despite the baseless accusations waged by Mrs. Coble, our company provides a service that no other company in Nashville provides! Our career management staff, coupled with marketing and networking staff FIND JOBS FOR OUR CLIENTS! FACT!!!! We routinely represent individuals who bring personal/professional challenges to their career search; history of job hopping, lack of education, extraneous education, poorly crafted resume, poor interviewing skills, lack of professional resources, inability to identify their skill sets, lack of focus and/or direction, to name a few. Our staff spends countless hours working with each individual client to make them more marketable. Each client and ALL their issues are tackled, one at a time. It’s laughable that anyone of medium intelligence would put ANY stock in the juvenile facetious rant (the really good jobs are available only to those ‘in the know’ and can only be obtained through some wizardy combining Masonic handshakes, good dentistry and whatever pixie dust this particular company stores in the backroom) [5] And by the way, in Mrs. Cobles’ case, we would recommend (free of charge) to further her writing “career” she learn to spell “wizardry” and polish her grammar and punctuation skills. I make no apology for my skill (or lack of) as I never intend to make a living as a writer. [6]

Do we charge a fee for what we do? Yes. There is only one method to conduct a career search that is free of COST; the internet, newspaper, church or friends/contacts to SEARCH ON YOUR OWN. All career development resources (beyond those mentioned) require an investment by the job seeker. It is a misnomer that there are companies who do not charge fees (commissions) paid by the employee. I will briefly explain.

Head hunters, recruiters, and employment agencies are commissioned sales organizations. Their commission is generally 20-40% of first year gross income. Commonly, the employer will write the check. However, ONLY at the very highest levels of employment (CEO, President, COO, CFO, etc.) does the company actually PAY for the service. For those below this level, the employee typically pays for the placement in a reduction of salary. Sadly, this reduced salary is compounded annually and the cost of placement assistance becomes astronomical beyond the initial commission.[7] Apparently Mrs. Coble and her band of blind followers find no fault with the aforementioned company types WHO GET PAID. [8]

Agencies of this type do not represent individuals; they represent companies who will pay their commissions. As with any sales organization, the more (resume’s) they have to present to a company, the greater the likelihood of placement success. While this arrangement is extremely profitable for the “agency,” it leaves individual job seekers out of the equation when time (finding a job) is of the essence. A successful agency attracts new applicants daily, which become additional competition for the few job openings typically represented.

As one writer stated, his company only uses Monster.com & Craig’s List when searching or advertising for viable applicants. If this is a successful recruitment venue for his company, great. However, what about the ten’s of thousands of positions that are never advertised OR are advertised on company boards or otherwise, that the job seeker knows nothing about? If one doesn’t know a particular company exists, it’s impossible to access potential opportunities. To gain entrée to companies, identify potential opportunities, develop an ongoing relationship, etc., it takes time, personnel & money. Networking and marketing are expensive, and an on going pursuit that may not be fruitful for months or years. None the less, it is the business of the marketing company (JLK-A) to implement daily, weekly, monthly & annual pursuits on behalf of our clients today and for the future. In effect, it was yesterday’s work that provides the opportunities for our clients today! [KC: Here again is evidence of that Bernard Haldane child of the Proprietary Database. They claim to have a built-in network. They claim that is what you are paying for…access to their network.]

Mrs. Coble wrote ad nausea, about the careful design of strong arm tactics by an eccentric grandmother, emasculation of her husband, exploitation & vulnerability. Think about this. Why, did the Coble’s come to JLK-A in the first place? [9] To spend so much time and effort devising an angry, adversarial “game plan” prior to arrival was guaranteed to result in nothing positive or productive. Did I state the facts to Mr. & Mrs. Coble? Yes. When I explained the challenges in any career search, I also told Mr. Coble what I believed his challenges and opportunities to be. I concede, without benefit of a crystal ball, I could not speak to specific positions or companies, as it had yet to be determined exactly WHAT Mr. Coble wants to do. [10] As an organization we are to be faulted for his lack of specific focus? Mr. Coble was unemployed because he quit his former position…in excess of 6 weeks before he was interviewed by JLK-A. The circumstances of this unemployment would indicate that direction is an issue. Also, his former salary was $20,000 less than his career high, so it would indicate as a job seeker Mr. Coble has had difficulty with sustained upward mobility. [11]Could we help him, yes – but the Coble’s were so steadfast in their paranoia that this will never happen. Finally, when asked what he would like to do, Mr. Coble responded, “I would like JLK-A to assist me with those aspects of identifying and accessing career opportunities that I’m unable to accomplish myself. Specifically, to help identify companies and positions that will be a good fit with my skills, experience and personality, and to assist in opening the doors to exploring these opportunities.” I know of no resource (anywhere) that would/could address these issues free of any cost.

The only fear tactic was in the mind of blog hostess. I presented the fee in a direct and succinct manner. [12]No hocus-pocus, no fairy dust. It is what it is. We do a job, we get paid. When asked questions, they were answered – directly and without trickery.[13]

To respond to the “bring the spouse” tirade is almost comical but apparently there is a gross misconception perpetuated here. A career search affects everyone in a household. NO spouse is going to make a decision regarding his/her career without the full support of his/her spouse. Additionally, if there are problems at home, the likelihood of a completely successful search is greatly diminished. (i.e., accepting a position simply to placate one’s spouse, etc). These are issues we need to know BEFORE we accept a candidate as a client. As a company we are not predisposed to getting in the middle of a spousal fray, where the potential “settling” for a lesser position could result in OUR client not realizing his/her full potential – ultimately unhappy. Further, it is helpful to know the opinion (as it relates to the candidates career) of the spouse. No smoke, no mirrors – it simply makes sense! For the reasons mentioned above – we never consider a candidate without meeting the spouse (and in this day and time significant other/fiancé/my baby’s daddy/etc., applies).

For the record, the gentleman who arrived without his spouse was NOT chastised in front of the Coble’s, nor was it staged. [14] That comment is simply stupid.

To suggest that JLK-A has some inside track with the Internal Revenue Service, or has any idea if, or how much, a person receives in tax refund is a ludicrous statement. Not only is individual tax information NOT public, it would take a hacker of Herculean talent to delve into the IRS files. Stupid.

There is a Peace quilt hanging on the wall in my office. [15] Every square was handmade by a different person, assembled by a volunteer/reader and sponsored by Midwest Living Magazine. Once completed (and there were 20 quilts), individually they were auctioned to the highest bidders. Every dime raised was donated to the survivor families of 9-11. This is not a vintage or antique quilt that would command huge money in any selling venue. I personally paid a large sum of money at auction for this quilt as the proceeds went for a good cause. It hangs in my office because it helps me remember that terrible day and my money helped families in need. With few exceptions, every person entering my office has commented favorably on it. The auction tags, quilt sponsor and quilt assembler continue to hang on the back. BTW – all 20 quilts hung on display for one year at the Mall of America’s in Minnesota. Mrs. Coble’s spiteful meanness precluded her from asking me about it. The Raphael Cherubs are my fancy (as is the Vintage Victorian NOT Oriental rug) – I plan to see the original Cherubs in Italy this summer. Mrs. Coble was so free to criticize my surroundings – she would die if she saw my beyond eclectic, antique filled home! Wonder what hers’ looks like?!

In conclusion, to those of you who hastily jumped on the JLK-A bashing band- wagon…have you checked out the instigator? Do a Google search on Katherine Coble! She is an angry, opinionated basher of many things[17] – and you might not like her positions either. Never in my life have I felt with such conviction to defend my company, my boss or my ethics. In this case, you, all of you are wrong in your assumptions about JLK-A. Don’t be lead by a negative, attention seeking, unhappy individual who is going through a rough time. Being unemployed and nearly broke would make anyone unhappy. However, an opinion, stated as such is fine. Hers’ was not an opinion, she fabricated quotes, invented an atmosphere that did not exist and led all of you. She lied…pure and simple. Those of you who have made and cancelled an appointment,[18] I wish you luck in your career search. Not knowing the “facts” about my company and believing all this drivel is really your loss. KRM.

Notice the footnotes in the above? Here are their body:

—-ENDNOTES—-
[1] KC: Yet the very practices of Bernard Haldane–right down to the promise of accessability to leads exclusive to JLK-A–were mimicked in our JLK-A Interview. We were told that they had direct access to the “people who do the hiring for the Big Jobs”.

[2] KC: None of those other unsolicited offers presented themselves as a Job Opportunity complete with a series of interviews requiring us to drive 20 miles.

[3] KC: Co-founder

[4] KC: Husband Contacted the person involved. She may or may not participate, but she is a Buddhist and wasn’t particularly interested in a Christian cycling organisation. Husband did let her know she was welcome to participate regardless of her difference in faith. The contact I was given bounced me over to a book distribution outlet that handled a type of work I do not write. I continue to have other contacts within the publishing industry who are more in line with what I need. I would also point out that were I a poor writer, my entry would not have elicited such a response.

[5] KC: During our interview we were told that the career managers “worked magic”. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, so that particular turn of phrase stood out to me.

[6] KC: Recommendation Duly Noted

[7] KC: This is straight out of her presentation patter, almost word-for-word. And straight out of the presentation booklet we got to take home with us. And straight out of Bernard Haldane’s old material.

[8] KC: I believe I said in the original post that I have no problem with paying for services RENDERED. I have a problem with being asked to pay upfront.

[9] KC: Because we believe in leaving no stone unturned.

[10] He wanted a job. He presumed that flexibility and his wide range of assets was a GOOD thing. It wasn’t a question of what he wants to do as much as a question of which of the many things he is qualified to do would he be hired for first. He had three jobs in the pipeline when we interviewed at JLK. Among the interviewer’s first words were an accusation that we would be wasting JLK-A’s time if one of those jobs came through even as the magic-working Career Managers were pushing for him with other companies.

[11] KC: Not true, but I’m not going to discuss the specifics of our finances here. Those who know us can vouch for the complete untruth of this.

[12] KC: Husband enquired about the fee at the first interview. No answer was given. Husband enquired about the fee in email prior to the second interview. We were told the fee and fee structure would be discussed at the second interview. We had to wade through nearly 25 minutes of interrogation before the fee was presented to us.

[13] KC: If you consider “wait until the next interview” a direct answer, sure.

[14] KC: Uh, yes he was chastised in front of us. The very next “nor was it staged” clause is proof that he was indeed reprimanded right in the lobby in front of us, God and that fake fireplace. IF it had not happened, you would not have needed to say “nor was it staged.”

[15] KC: About all the office decoration, which she has apparently taken offense to my describing…. I did not ask about the Peace Quilt because after cooling my heels in the lobby for a quarter of an hour I wanted to get down to business, not talk about quilts. As far as the rest of the office description–which I NEVER described as “tacky”–I included it for a very specific reason. Before composing my write-up I went to other sites to see what information existed. There are several complaints about JLK-A at Ripoff Report which were rebutted by JL Kirk employees. Many of JL Kirk’s rebuttals seem to involve some sort of “this person was never in our office” type of statement. So I figured the best way to refute that was to describe the office. Who, after all, could make up details like a Raffael print, a handmade table and a specific rug (which really tied the room together)? Obviously they now at least admit that I was indeed in their office. Of course they’re rather unclear on the rest of the circumstances but at least we’ve placed me squarely IN THE OFFICE.

[17] Angry some days. Opinionated most days. Basher of many things? Yes. Bad episodes of Lost. Bad episodes of Extreme Makeover Home Edition. Big government. War On Terror Hysteria. War on Drugs Hysteria. Clowns. I bash all of these many things. It of course means nothing about the outcome of my experience with JL Kirk & Associates.

[18] Between my blog comments and emails I’m guessing that number is now in the double digits. While I’m somewhat sorry to have caused JLK’s business a bit of hardship, I’m glad to have spared other vulnerable people the pain we went through. If you don’t believe the interview was emotionally painful, I kindly ask you to reread the comments of the woman who interviewed us.

The cease & desist letter is also available online.

iPod Reloaded, Part I: A Shot in the Dark

Well, it finally happened. After 20 months of loyal service, I dropped my iPod mini one too many times. Various errors came up, and troubleshooting quickly revealed that its harddrive had failed.

I had got it cheap some time ago because Apple was transitioning from the (cheap, size-of-a-card-deck, hard-drive-driven) iPod MInis to the (more expensive, size-of-a-gum-pack, flash-memory-driven) iPod Nanos. Even after all this time, buying a new 4GB nano would be more expensive ($199) than what I paid for a mini ($149). Actually “upgrading” to an 8 GB nano ($249) would be as expensive as a 30 GB iPod.

Happily, I came across Geek Technique and its series on replacing the iPod Mini’s harddrive with flash memory.


Major Surgery

From there i found iFix iPods Fast, and there $144 deal of a flash upgarde to 8GB, service, and warrenty. I wrote in confirming the price, and the owner solicited a $20 rebate in exchange for some press. So here it is, tdaxp iPod payola.

What happens next? I’m not sure. I paid for shipping, paid iFixIpodsFast, and sent off my former iPod mini. Will my iPod come back, flash-based, double-sized, and longer lasting than ever before?


A Happy Ending?

Will it catch on fire and explode? Stay tuned, and find out!


iPod Reloaded, a tdaxp series
1. A Shot in the Dark
2. Broken, Fixed, Upgraded
3. It works!

Crystal Gail Mangum and Mike Nifong

Last year, for the second time in her life, Crystal Gail Mangum claimed to have been raped by three men. For the second time, there was no trial. But for the first time, media attention encouraged the North Caroline Attorney-General Roy Cooper to say the word: “innocent.”


Inmate Intake: MANGUM, CRYSTAL GAIL

Ms Mangum’s false accusation was horribly compounded by the gross incompetence, negligence, and capricious maliciousness of Durham North Carolina prosecutor, Mike Nifong. My fellow college students — indeed, all Americans — hope that the surest measures are taken against Mike Nifong so that justice may be served.

Hopefully, Jesse Jackson, who said that “his organization will pay the Duke scandal accuser’s tuition regardless of whether she’s telling the truth or not,” will doubtless comment soon.