FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

DashCon: Separating Facts from Fiction  An Official Statement

Schaumburg, IL – July 11-13, 2014 – A lot has been said of what happened at our event this past weekend, and most of the information has come from those who weren’t actually there. At this time, our intent is to clear up any misconceptions, take responsibility for our faults in the matter, apologize to certain parties, and put as many fears to rest as we possibly can. Please bear with me, as this will be a rather hefty read. We want to be as transparent as possible.

Why did we still need $17,000, and where did it go?

With events like ours, it’s not entirely uncommon for there to be an outstanding balance at the time of the event. Most of our funds should have come in throughout the weekend, though our ‘at the door’ sales absolutely deflated after the Friday evening and Saturday afternoon debacles—and with good reason. As you’ll see below, we had already paid in $21,000 prior to arrival. Only about $7,000 was money still due on the venue itself, as $10,000+ was for ‘at event services,’ such as electricity, which wasn’t even quoted to us until a day or two prior to Thursday night’s early registration.

Should we have been more prepared? Absolutely. We’ve looked into the contract, and it’s come to light that the ‘net 30’ terms that were described by a member of DashCon’s upper management weren’t correct. Whether that misinformation was deliberate or accidental, we can’t say for sure. We can only say that we’ve taken measures to remove the person who handled that situation from our company.

Additionally, it was suggested that the Renaissance Schaumburg had denigrated our attendees, saying that they didn’t like the ‘type of clientele’ our event brought in. That has since been proven 100% untrue. When two of the Con Heads were told by the third that such a thing had been said or otherwise insinuated, it wasn’t wholly unbelievable—as it’s happened to so many other events in the past—and, in our state of panic, we believed what we were told, therein passing it along to our attendees. DashCon’s sincerest apologies go out to everyone who was hurt by this statement, including our attendees, vendors, staff members, and everyone at both the Renaissance Schaumburg and their parent company, Marriott International.

We have contacted the Renaissance Schaumburg since the close of our event, apologized for this misinformation, and taken the appropriate measures to repair our business relationship. DashCon is eternally grateful to hotel’s staff and management, who worked closely and endlessly with us over the course of the weekend—sometimes into the wee hours of the morning—for their overwhelming kindness prior to, during, and after the convention.

As for what we did with the $17,000 raised in under an hour—which, we would like to go on record as saying, absolutely touches and astounds us—a picture is worth a thousand words. While the hotel was not at liberty to release our accounting records, we have every right to do so. Please note both the $21,000 paid prior to arrival, as well as the money posted on the night of July 11 and morning of July 12.

We hope this will ease your minds and help to dispel any rumors of the $17,000 raised being either stolen or put toward our 2015 event. In lieu of us discussing every single posited theory on where the money went, we decided it would be best to simply show you where it was actually posted to our account. The reason for the two separate $3,000 charges is a daily spending limit on the PayPal Debit Card that was used to immediately access funds donated on our website—a situation the hotel understood and was willing to work around.

You have our sincerest apologies that we couldn’t release this sooner, but we only received our final paperwork yesterday afternoon, and those of us who were able to make such information public were in a car and meetings in another state for the vast majority of the day.

Why didn’t the hotel speak to the above referenced charges?

Many members of the Renaissance Schaumburg staff, especially those found behind the front desk or scattered throughout the convention center’s public spaces, weren’t privy to this information. Those in upper management who were privy to such things weren’t at liberty to discuss DashCon’s contracts or accounting matters with the general public. Only DashCon itself can make private company information available to the public. The Renaissance Schaumburg was legally bound to remain silent about the terms of our arrangement, and they still are. DashCon has been told multiple times by various members of management that they will never be able to speak publicly about the accounting matters of their clientele. This is corporate policy, and we can’t ask them to break it.

Will donations be refunded?

Donations made through PayPal are very easily tracked and can certainly be returned in the coming weeks. If you would like your PayPal donation refunded, please let us know by 11:59pm EST on Saturday, July 19, 2014. Please send an email to dashcondonations@gmail.com with “PayPal Donation Refund” in the subject line. Within the body of the email, please include your full name and PayPal transaction number so we can verify your claim.

If you donated cash and would like it returned, please also let us know by 11:59pm EST on Saturday, July 19, 2014. Please send an email to dashcondonations@gmail.com with “Cash Donation Refund” in the subject line. Within the body of the email, please include your full name, phone number, Invoice ID from your badge purchase [to verify your ability to have been in attendance], and the amount you donated. Upon advice of our legal counsel, we have been instructed to sort through claims, try and determine legitimacy [based on total amount claimed versus total amount received], and make an informed decision about potential refunds in coordination with both legal and accounting at that time.

Even if you’ve already emailed or invoiced us about your donation, please do so again in the above described manner to ensure we don’t miss your claim. Any claims made after 11:59pm EST on Saturday, July 19, 2014 will be disregarded. We’re sorry for any inconvenience this causes, but there must be a hard cut-off in order for us to properly sort through claims. Thank you again to everyone who helped us out. You have no idea how impressive and touching it was to see what can be accomplished in such a short time. We never expected to have to do anything of this sort, and your support was overwhelming to all who witnessed it. You have our eternal gratitude.

 Will panelists and volunteers still be compensated?

The short answer is yes. There were some funds at our disposal that were not immediately able to be liquated in order to pull us out of our situation. When they become available, which will be within a week, we will make good on those promises of reimbursement for rooms and/or badges. We have all the metrics and hours logs necessary to ensure the proper people are reimbursed, and they will be contacted and compensated in a timely manner.

What happened with the Baker Street Babes’ and Gingerhaze’s hotel rooms?

Simply put, a clerical error. DashCon is more than willing to take responsibility for mistakes made by the company, but this honestly wasn’t one of them. We want to clear this up as quickly and concisely as possible without causing more strife for those involved, but this matter has become too public to ignore. Below this section, you will find the proof that is both available to us and ethical to post.

For reasons still unknown, seven of DashCon’s comped rooms ‘fell off’ of our master account with the Renaissance Schaumburg. That is to say, they no longer showed up as rooms that were DashCon’s financial responsibility. This wasn’t information we were made aware of until the situation was already spiraling out of control.

Upon checking my call log, I [Megan Eli] did miss three calls the morning of Sunday, July 13, 2014. One of those calls was from Liz of the Baker Street Babes. She has my sincerest apologies that I missed her call. Unfortunately, phone reception was shoddy all weekend long—mostly due to the number of people overloading the towers—and missed calls were arriving in groups at various times throughout the day. Once aware of her situation, I personally went to the lobby to settle the matter. Sadly, though, she was already gone by that time. We weren’t aware of Lyndsay Faye’s or Gingerhaze’s situations until well after their departure, and they too were discussed with the hotel immediately upon discovery.

As reported by the Baker Street Babes, they did mention speaking to their lawyer. For the record, this was not what sparked our action, though. I was actually in a meeting with my event coordinator to settle the matter when I received her message. They would have been well within their rights to seek legal action if we had refused to pay for their rooms as promised, but DashCon wants to make it perfectly clear that we always intended to cover the cost of those rooms and have since rectified the problem. A Renaissance Schaumburg staff member reported calling both Liz and Lyndsay and emailing Gingerhaze to inform them of this correction, and all parties of corroborated the hotel’s claim.

Again, DashCon is incredibly sorry that this happened, but we worked in earnest to remedy the situation with as much haste as possible. Our apologies go out to all of those affected, including Lyndsay, Liz, Gingerhaze, a few of our volunteers, and even some of our admins were included in the seven rooms that were unintentionally removed from our master account. This was utterly unintentional, and we can’t apologize enough.

Below are the charges for both Liz's [Elizabeth G—last name redacted for privacy] and Gingerhaze’s [Noelle S—last name redacted for privacy] rooms. Lyndsay’s will be kept private, as there were incidental charges that are not in our jurisdiction to make public. Please understand that we’re only withholding it out of obligation to her privacy.

Why did you consistently give false information to the committees which helped plan Dashcon, including misinformation about where their fundraising money would go? 

[Thank you to http://tastefulbanjo.tumblr.com for suggested bullet points – source: x]

While we at DashCon didn’t want to blatantly skip over this question, we would require significantly more information to properly address this question to our best ability. To the best of my knowledge, we never misinformed anyone regarding the use or handling of donated funds. Please send any specific questions or concerns to admins@dashcon.org with “Committee Concerns” in the subject line, and we’ll be happy to address them once everything settles down a bit.

What happened with Welcome to Night Vale?

To diffuse multiple claims at once, DashCon would like to publicly explain exactly what transpired between our company and Night Vale that led to the eventual dissolution of our working relationship.

Regarding flight, accommodations, and payment:

On January 21, 2014, I [Megan Eli] contacted Welcome to Night Vale in order to get passenger information to book their flights. We received a reply from Mr. Fink on February 23, 2014 that spoke directly to the matter, as well as to their preferences regarding accommodations. Mr. Fink’s phone number has been redacted, as has part of his email address, for reasons of privacy.

As that was an amenable request, DashCon agreed to allow this, despite it being in direct conflict with the terms of the contract both parties had signed.

On June 30, 2014, we received a follow up email from Mr. Fink regarding final hotel and travel costs:

After some negotiation, as the proposed hotel cost was well beyond DashCon’s contractual obligation, DashCon and Night Vale [via Mr. Cranor] agreed to a compensation amount that fell between our contractual obligation and their actual costs. Still on June 30, 2014, DashCon asked if they preferred their payment prior to the event or upon arrival. We received the following response:

Once again, DashCon agreed.

Mr. Fink, Mr. Cranor, and Mr. Baldwin arrived several minutes early on Friday, July 11, 2014 and were kind, jovial, and excited to meet their fans at the private Meet & Greet. They treated their fans with respect and were very generous in taking the time to talk to each person and allow candid photos to be taken with them. While the event did run over by nearly twenty minutes in order to give all in attendance the same chance, they seemed pleased with the experience overall, and we at DashCon couldn’t have been happier with how it turned out.

After the Meet & Greet, I [Megan Eli] sat down with all three of them to discuss how the Live Reading would go the next day. Prior to sitting down with them, I placed a call to Roxanne Schwieterman, who was in possession of their aforementioned check. She was unavailable to answer at the time, and we waited for her to return my call while speaking about the next day’s event. After a brief—maybe ten minutes—discussion, she had yet to return my call. When I offered to call her again or try to track her down, they casually offered pick up the check the following day.

That night, Friday, July 11, 2014, is when the emergency donation drive was held. When we realized what was going to happen, a call was placed to Mr. Cranor so that Night Vale wouldn’t be caught off guard by the situation. Despite not having heard the phone call myself, I can confirm that a member of DashCon’s support staff did speak with him while the Con Heads were otherwise engaged in talking with the hotel’s management staff.

This is where an apology is owed based on facts that were brought to light less than 24 hours ago. We will get there, but please first allow us to explain what transpired.

We received the following email at 9:27pm CST on Friday, July 11, 2014 from Mr. Cranor [partial email address redacted for reasons of privacy]:

To the best of our knowledge, this email was only seen by one member of DashCon’s staff, who replied to it at 9:17am CST on Saturday, July 12, 2014. Mr. Cranor’s email, as well as our response, wasn’t found by Cain Hopkins and myself until late into the evening on July 15, 2014. We’ve since identified the staff member who sent the reply and taken measures to remove them from the company. We at DashCon consider this response abrupt, just shy of rude, and completely unprofessional. Those of us who remain with DashCon pride ourselves on keeping communication, regardless of the recipient, as professional as possible. We do not condone the manner in which this reply was sent. You can find it below:

Neither Cain Hopkins nor myself [Megan Eli] were made aware of this exchange, and were therefore unable to prepare for it before Night Vale’s arrival on Saturday afternoon.

Our last written correspondence with Mr. Cranor, or any of the Night Vale team, arrived in our inbox at 9:49am CST on Saturday, July 12, 2014. Phone number redacted for reasons of privacy.

Upon seeing the email, Mr. Cranor was contacted immediately and independently by several members of the DashCon staff. After speaking to each of us and [reportedly] a member of the hotel’s staff upon arrival, Mr. Hopkins and I joined a member of registration, as well as the head of our volunteer security [force for the sake of the talent’s safety] in order to try and settle the matter.

It was only upon Mr. Hopkin’s and my arrival at the in-person meeting that we were alerted to the request for cash or a cashier’s check. When I reported that we were given no notice of their request, that information was the most accurate I had at the time. DashCon is deeply regretful of that statement in light of this new information. Everyone from the Welcome to Night Vale team has our sincerest apologies for this misinformation that we spread. While ignorance is no excuse, it does serve as an explanation as to why they didn’t understand our delay in providing what they asked. And, given this new information, they were exceedingly patient with us upon their arrival.

The amount still due to them was roughly $3,700. Even on the short notice that Mr. Hopkins and myself were given, we were able to provide around $2,345 in cash, with the remaining $1,355 being available via PayPal or a private bank account. We now understand why further delays were deemed unacceptable, and we couldn’t be sorrier that those of us handling the situation weren’t fully informed at the time. The person responsible for the mismanaged communication is being removed from the company, and those of us remaining are making every effort to ensure that this sort of miscommunication never happens again. And, for the record, none of the funds offered to Mr. Cranor were taken upon his departure.

To address rumors that any of the Welcome to Night Vale team was ‘rude and/or pushy’ toward DashCon staff, I [Megan Eli] can personally verify that this is entirely untrue. All three Night Vale representatives showed us nothing but kindness and respect, even in the very end. No harsh words were exchanged, no voices raised, and no hostility was shown from either side.

We humbly offer our apologies to Mr. Cranor, Mr. Fink, Mr. Baldwin, and the entire Welcome to Night Vale team for this error. Additionally and as always, we encourage Welcome to Night Vale fans to hold no hard feelings toward them in this matter. Everyone here at DashCon is still a fan and supporter of their work, and we hope others will also continue to enjoy them for many years to come.

Regarding refunds on Welcome to Night Vale reserved seating:

After speaking to our legal counsel, we have been advised that we are unable to provide refunds on these seats. This decision was based on several of DashCon’s Rules and Policies, which can be found here. The pertinent rules are quoted below:

  •   #21: DashCon will not refund badges or reserved WTNV seats for any reason.
    • It has been confirmed that this rule was changed to reflect WTNV seats mid-event, but other rules render any change to #21 moot regardless.
  • #25: The Schedule is subject to change at any time, even during the convention.
  • Last line on the Rules and Policies page: “DashCon reserves the right to change these rules at any time, and attendees are responsible for their own individual knowledge of the convention rules.”

DashCon has been instructed that refunding the reserved seats in direct opposition with our rules would call into question all of our rules and policies. We are both saddened by and understanding of this stance. Potentially losing the enforcement of all of our rules and policies is not something we can risk now or at any time in the future. For anyone who has questions regarding this decision, we will [upon request] direct you to our legal counsel.

Why did Doug Jones leave Sunday morning?

In short, Doug Jones departed on the morning of Sunday, July 13, 2014 because he was always meant to do so. Contractually, we were to provide a departure flight for the evening or morning following the close of his last scheduled event. As all of his events were on Saturday, he was scheduled to fly home on Sunday morning. We’re pleased to report that he was seen in attendance at the Time Crash concert on Saturday night, dancing, talking to fans, taking photos with them, and having a great time. He later confirmed via Twitter that he “had an amazing experience” at both “[his] panel and meet-n-greet time!” [source: x]

Please note that @dashconchicago is no longer the official DashCon Twitter. We have changed our name to @dashconindy, in hour of our new 2015 location.

What happened with the now-infamous ball pit?

DashCon rented both the ball pit and bouncy house from Clowning Around Entertainment in Mundelein, IL. Photos on the website were not representative of products received, and the company has been contacted with photographic evidence of the quality and size of products provided to us. Upon first inquiry, Clowning Around was made aware that the products would be largely for use by adults rather than children and assured us that it would be no problem. We have yet to receive an official resolution to this situation.

That said, we fully encourage and support the meme that followed. We have embraced and accepted the humor of the situation and are glad we could provide the internet with some comedy relief in this otherwise tense scenario. When the “extra hour in the ball pit” was posted, the Con Head who posted it had never actually seen the product we received, and those of us who had were unavailable to provide input at the time.

Did minors get into the BDSM panel or any other 18+ panels?

No, they did not. We took multiple measures to ensure they wouldn’t, and it isn’t likely that anyone slipped through the system’s fail-safes. Originally, we intended to only use bright orange bracelets that read “OVER 18” in large, easily readable letters. They are made in such a way that, when even sort of snugly, they are very difficult to remove without destroying them. However, many of the bracelets weren’t secured tightly enough or were instead attached to the attendees’ lanyards, which reduced their efficacy to essentially zero. [Photo below]

Due to this, we asked that door monitors for all 18+ panels check the ID of everyone entering the panel. I [Megan Eli] personally saw people being turned away from panels for not having their ID, even in cases where attendees visually appeared to be of age.

Ariel Bradford [name used with permission] went on record as saying, “I was the person who checked IDs for the BDSM panel with [volunteer’s name]. No minors even tried to get in. Not one. I was there in front of the door the entire time.” If anyone has further questions regarding this panel in specific, DashCon has been asked to direct them to Jes, who served as a panelist for BDSM 101. She can be contacted through her Tumblr blog.

 What blogs actually belong to DashCon?

The following blogs are the only blogs currently run by actual DashCon staff:

Any “official” information found on any other blog should not be considered true or accurate without first checking with the actual DashCon staff. If we add any additional blogs to this list, they will be posted as links from the official DashCon blog.

This isn’t to suggest that we don’t find some of the parody blogs amusing. We certainly do. Yet and still, we can’t encourage anyone to believe the accuracy of information given by anyone who isn’t a member of the DashCon staff.

When will your email/ask be answered?

We’re slowly sorting through our inboxes on both Tumblr and the admin email account. As you might imagine, we’ve received a great many messages in both, and they will take time to go through. Obviously, we’ll be prioritizing our responses based on the important of the message.

Will there be a DashCon 2015?

Yes! DashCon 2015 will be held at the Indianapolis Convention Center in Indianapolis, IN from June 19-21, 2015. In the meantime, DashCon is already restructuring, learning from our mistakes, and rectifying the problems we faced this past weekend. We know what a challenge it will be to save the DashCon name, but we’re prepared to take that challenge head on. Running from our mistakes won’t serve to improve our staff or our business. We understand that we’ve lost your trust for the time being, but we’re more than ready to do whatever we can to earn it back—even if it takes years of hard work and corporate transparency. The backlash has been severe, but we won’t be defeated so easily. Now is a time to rebuild, and we welcome those who are willing to give us a chance—be it a first chance or a second one—to Indianapolis next June. We’ll have a brand new website soon, and badges for 2015 will be made available in the next few weeks on a tiered system. For the people who already purchased the 2015 pre-sale badges, we will be deciding on a starting price for the tiered system and refunding you the difference between what you paid and the starting tier’s price.

One final note:

DashCon would like to thank everyone involved in this year’s convention, regardless of how it turned out. We take solace in knowing that some attendees, vendors, panelists, and guests had a great time, and we apologize profusely to those who had a very different experience. In the end, we ask that no one harass, threaten, or otherwise abuse our attendees, panelists, volunteers, the hotel staff, or anyone else involved in DashCon 2014. None of the fault in DashCon’s flaws falls with them, and they deserve better than to be disparaged for having innocently attended or become even loosely associated with our event.