Did the parties ever ask you to do things you were unable to do? How did you handle such requests?


Bob Ensley


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Did parties, either in this case or others, ever ask you to do things that you were either unable or absolutely unwilling to do?

Answer:
Oh yes, many times.

Question:
Can you give me some examples again?

Answer:
Well, one thing you've got to realize is that people can speak for themselves. If you're sincere at what you're doing, you don't have to be concerned about a person's grammar, diction, or correct use of an adjective or verb. So I would always say to these people that want to use me as a messenger, I'd say, "No, you're going to have to come. You live here, you can say it better and more factually than I can. I'm not going to be a messenger." Some people would say, "What are you here for? You're here to represent us. We pay your salary, we're taxpayers and you know, we can get you fired." In fact, we had people call the President, call the Attorney General many, many times.... simply because we would refuse to tell. Particularly from the power structure, in the white business community to do what they wanted us to do to stop the marches. And they would always want to impose curfews that would only have an impact upon the blacks and we would protest that. At times, many blacks would say, "you know, so-and-so doesn't need to be involved because they're so dirty, they're nothing but crooks and gangsters. If you're gonna continue to associate with them then, of course, we're not going to be involved." I would never do that because it takes all of us. Ozell used to have in his office a sign that said, "None of us is smarter than all of us." So I would always try to be very inclusive. There was a role for everybody, and I would try to explain that to everyone inclined to let them just blatantly write off people. Write off ideas, suggestions and different things like that, but don't write off people.




Ernest Jones


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Did either of the parties, or any of the parties involved ever ask you to do things that you were just unable to do and how do you handle such a request?

Answer:
They would try and I really can't think of anything specific but obviously they would try to get you to do things. The way that I deal with that is through establishing the ground rules and the working relationship that's going to occur between the mediators and the parties. In that process I make sure that the ground rules (without being over-burdensome) are clear and definitive as to roles. And I let it be known that that's it. Don't ask me to do something that isn't on this page, you know that kind of thing. Here's my role and I'm very clear. One of the things that I think is actually critical to mediation is that the parties know exactly how their mediator views mediation and how he runs the process, and where the start and stop points are. I'm real adamant about that. Because I communicate that up front clearly and we put most of it on paper and they sign it, usually there's not a problem. It doesn't come up very often that they ask me to do something that isn't on the paper.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Did parties ever ask you to do something that you were unable to do?

Answer:
Iím sure that they did. But, I think people really understood the limits of what we could do. I think it didnít take parties long to realize that we couldnít come in and end abuses, that this had to come through them and the courts. We would discuss the options. Youíre probably going to get better answers on that question from the people who are in the field day in and day out, rather than a regional director. Sometimes, staff would do things that they shouldnít do. Certainly during Wounded Knee, people were asking us to smuggle things in. Sometimes we would, staff would do that because we thought it would help out in the long run. Thatís how you deal with trust, thatís how you get people to talk to you, bringing food into Wounded Knee. Sometimes you couldnít do it. But you had to do it at Wounded Knee, where it was important that they had some gasoline so responsible leaders could move their motor vehicles between these bunkers where armed people were, so they could communicate with them and control the shooting. So we knew when they were siphoning gas from the tanks of our cars, thatís how it was going to be used. So we didnít fight it. We just tried not to get caught on the road with out gas on the way back, which would happen from time to time. So youíre there -- you couldnít do it, and you shouldnít have done it, but you did it because you knew in the end it was going to be helpful.






Martin Walsh


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Do the parties ever ask you to do anything that you are unable to do?

Answer:
Yes, often what the community wants is prosecution. In a police case, they want someone fired, they want someone prosecuted, things like that. Often that starts the process. This development often occurs whenever there is a highly publicized incident such as a police shooting of a minority youth under disputed circumstances and people have already made a conclusion that they want something done. It fits a pattern. There was another case CRS was involved in where there was a whole series of problems of racial/ethnic harassment and forms of discrimination by the police department and the community was low keyed. I forget the exact incident that finally precipitated our being called, but the community leaders invited us and the state attorney general's office to come to a meeting. We went and sat down with the community leaders. What they wanted was the prosecution of these officers. They started talking about all these incidents that had taken place. Some of them had been referred to the state attorneys office or the district attorney and nothing had been done. What they wanted was prosecution. In listening to them, I noted that there were many other issues: no Spanish-speaking officers, kids having to come out and interpret for them, and other matters. So, I said, "Why don't we have the attorney general's representative work with you on all these incidents about misconduct, harassment, and violation of your civil rights, and I will work with you on some of the other issues." That's how I broke it down and basically we really had to guide them from prosecution to seeing the possibilities of other things being done. In that way you as a conciliator/mediator are interpreting some of the things you are hearing. You are saying, "There appear to be other issues than just the prosecution that can be addressed in another forum in which maybe we can assist you with the police department if you're willing to sit down and deal with these things." It's like I said before, people want that prosecution, but what CRS has to offer is addressing other issues in a different way, that is, by mediation.




Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Are you ever asked not to tell the other party that you're coming in?

Answer:
Well, they probably have said that to me, but I say "I can't, I've already done that. I'm coming in to try to resolve the conflict, I've got to work with both sides."






Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Did the parties ever ask you to do things that you weren't able to do?

Answer:
Oh sure. Lots of times. You tell them. You just be straight up. You tell them, "I can't do that, man. Do you think I'm a darn fool?" In one prison I went into, the guys wanted to bring in various contraband and stuff like that. You just say, "no," and go onto the next level and they leave you alone about that. And not only that, they respect you.




Silke Hansen


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

At any time during this case did any of the parties involved ask you to do something that you were unable to do?

Answer:
Not that I remember. I don't remember that.






Bob Hughes


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Did any of the parties ask you to do something that you were not able to do?

Answer:
I don't recall offhand. If they wanted me to meet with them, I made sure the other side knew I was meeting with them. I offered to meet with them if they wanted to, that sort of thing. I don't recall anything that I couldn't do, I tried to accommodate their needs as much as possible. It's a part of building trust over a number of meetings, when they would realize that I was communicating what I was doing with the other side. That's part of the trust building process.




Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Did anybody ever ask you to do something while the mediation was on going which you couldn't do? Advocate for them or somehow tilt tables more than you felt was legitimate to do?

Answer:
I can't remember. I try to get from the beginning a clear understanding of what my role is. I remember being in Detroit one time and a Hispanic group said, "Why don't you level with us, why don't you talk to us, like plain language what you're doing and what you're going to do?" I said, "Look you know who I am, I don't know who you are." And I always know I'm being tape recorded, every conversation, so I'm careful what I say. Saying whether I can defend it because you don't know who's out there and who's working for whom.




Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

The original question was whether or not people ask you to do things that you can't do?

Answer:
Yes, but I explain what I can and cannot do. Two weeks later I'm at the advisor's house. He said, "Hey listen to this" he played the whole conversation of the meeting that we had. I asked him, "How did you record that?" He told me he had a voice activated recorder in his briefcase and every time we talked, it would pick up and start running. So anybody can have a recorder anywhere.




Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

If a party comes to the table and asks you a question that you're not quite ready to divulge the answer to, how do you approach that situation?

Answer:
A lot of times people ask me, "What did he or she tell you?" "I can't reveal that information." But I'll say, "Look, there are some things, because of the way we do our work, we'd best keep confidential." I'm really trying to help everybody. I wouldn't tell her everything you told me, so I'm not going to tell you everything she told me."







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by Conflict Management Initiatives and the Conflict Information Consortium at the University of Colorado