The Royal Order of Jesters again finds itself embroiled in a situation involving prostitution, this time out of Flint, Michigan. One would think after the events a couple of years ago in New York they would be on the lookout for this kind of stuff, but alas, no.
From the All Michigan website, by reporter Mark Tower:
In a lawsuit filed June 11 in Genesee County Circuit Court by Nicholas Singelis II, the Clio-based Elf Khurafeh Shrine Temple, along with 11 members —commonly known as Shriners — are accused of allowing illegal sexual activities to take place during an initiation ceremony held Nov. 3, 2012, at the organization’s Circus Park facility in Vienna Township.
Singelis is a former Shriner and former employee of Elf Khurafeh Shrine Temple. According to his lawsuit, Singelis was fired in March after he reported the alleged incident to leaders of both Elf Khurafeh Shrine Temple and Shriners International, the overarching arm of the more than 140-year-old fraternal organization best known for its pediatric hospitals and circuses
The claim in the lawsuit is denied by several members and officers of the Elf Khurafeh Shrine Temple. A spokesperson for the Elf Khurafeh Shrine Temple declined to comment on the claims.
Singelis also is a defendant in a lawsuit filed March 10 in Saginaw County Circuit Court by Elf Khurafeh Shrine Temple that alleges he was involved in embezzling money from the organization. Singelis denies the claim.
Shriners International, in a statement released June 11, noted the organization is aware of both lawsuits and is investigating the claims.
Singelis, in his lawsuit, says he was terminated from his job as retaliation after he threatened to tell his story to “the appropriate governmental authorities.”
He also said in the lawsuit he was told by fellow members of the Elf Khurafeh Shrine Temple to “shut his mouth,” and that he felt threatened by members of the organization.
He said in a letter included in the lawsuit that sources told him prostitutes were hired and had sex with members of the Elf Khurafeh Shrine Temple during a Nov. 3, 2012, event.
He said he did not directly witness any acts of prostitution by the organization or its members, but said other members, as well as non-members, told him that Circus Park, where Elf Khurafeh’s offices are located, was being used for “illegal sexual activity” during a Shriner initiation ceremony.
The lawsuit states this illegal activity involved members of The Royal Order of Jesters Court No. 74 and El Hajj Tassel No. 13, two subgroups chartered by Elf Khurafeh Shrine Temple.
“I have received numerous complaints regarding these acts, from Nobles and non-members stating that not only is this unlawful; it is against Shrine Law,” Singelis says he wrote in a letter to former Elf Khurafeh Potentate Alan Basner, the organization’s leader. The letter is included in Singelis’ lawsuit.
Basner denies the claims made in Singelis’ lawsuit.
Other members also deny the claims.
“In my opinion, this is just his way of trying to make us look bad,” said Ronald Huston, an Elf Khurafeh member who is named in the lawsuit.
“It’s ridiculous. It sounds like sour grapes to me,” added Dick Bartlett, director of the Royal Order of Jesters Court No. 74, who is not named in Singelis’ lawsuit.
More Shriners respond to accusationsIn a press release issued June 11 by Clio attorney Robert L. Swartwood, general counsel to Elf Khurafeh Shrine Temple, Swartwood states that none of the members named in Singelis' lawsuit have yet been served with notice of the lawsuit.
"As nobody has been served in that matter to date, Elf Khurafeh Shriners cannot comment on it or the nature of any legal matter pending before the courts at this time," Swartwood wrote.
Former Potentate and current Recorder Clarence W. Meyer Jr., who is named in Singelis’ lawsuit, declined to respond directly to the accusations, though he did say the organization intends to pursue a slander lawsuit against the former employee.
Another longtime Jester, Donald P. Link — also named as a defendant in Singelis’ lawsuit — denied knowledge of the alleged prostitution at Royal Order of Jesters meetings or events.
“I haven’t seen any of it,” Link said.
Huston, a past director of The Royal Order of Jesters Court No. 74, said he has been a Jester for about 15 years. He referenced a 2005 FBI case, in which it was determined prostitutes were taken across the border into Canada for a Royal Order of Jesters national convention.
Huston said that incident gave Jesters a bad name, and resulted in very strict policies against such behavior for members and Courts across the country.
"We've done everything we can to make sure that doesn't happen," he said. "We won't tolerate it."
State Rep. Charles Smiley, D-Burton, also is named as a defendant in Singelis’ lawsuit. He said he was never a member of the Jesters Court, but was at one time a member of El Hajj. He said he has no knowledge of the alleged prostitution and said he was not present at the Nov. 3, 2012, event at Circus Park.
Lawsuit against SingelisThe lawsuit filed in March 2013 by the Elf Khurafeh Shrine Temple alleges that Singelis and a former potentate of the organization, Craig Hatch together embezzled and mishandle temple funds.
Singelis' alleged embezzlement, according to several current Elf Khurafeh members and leaders, was the reason his employment was terminated.
According to the lawsuit, Singelis and Hatch improperly handled hundreds of thousands of dollars in organization funds. The complaint claims Singelis used a debit card to spend thousands of dollars of Shrine funds on “products and services that appear to have no legitimate relationship to the (association’s) fraternal or charitable activities.”
Swartwood, in his press release, said Elf Khurafeh has an ongoing investigation into possible missing funds. Neither Singelis nor Hatch have been charged with any criminal wrongdoing in connection with those allegations.
"The nobility and leadership of Elf Khurafeh Shriners have identified some possible improprieties in our bookkeeping procedures resulting in the discovery of certain funds not being totally accounted for," he wrote. "Due to these circumstances, our leadership has directed complete auditing of all accounts and investigation of all matters pertaining to the security of these funds."
Saginaw County Prosecutor John McColgan said his office is investigating the embezzlement claims, but said the case might not remain with his office.
"It's so big," McColgan said. "I think we were looking at the Attorney General or even the U.S. District Attorney taking it."
Singelis’ attorney in the lawsuit filed against him in Saginaw County filed a “change of venue” motion in May, arguing that Saginaw County is not the appropriate jurisdiction for the lawsuit to be argued, a fact which is disputed by the organization’s attorney.
After a change of venue hearing on May 20, the matter was taken under advisement by Circuit Court Judge James T. Borchard. According to court records, 120 days have been afforded for discovery and a case evaluation is set to be scheduled after Oct. 6, 2013.
Singelis said he hopes, by exposing the wrongdoing he is alleging, to right any wrong he did by promoting the organization.
"I spoke for this organization for three years," he said.
Huston said he hopes the one thing that doesn't get lost in the legal battles yet to come is the good done by the organization and the philanthropic actions of many of its members.
"The majority of Shriners are dedicated individuals," he said. "We've got guys who have made hundreds of trips to Chicago taking kids to the hospital there."