Sunday, June 21, 2009

why Bill West doesn't belong on BHPC LC 10

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KUNM-FM Mail Rogi Riverstone

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Sun, Jun 21, 2009 at 2:29 PM

Upon my return from the National Rural Mental Health Conference yesterday, I spoke with 2 friends in town about this past LC 10 meeting. They told me Jesse Chavez specifically suggested inviting Bill West, manager of Citizens' Bank of Clovis, Fort Sumner Branch, to our meetings.

I HIGHLY advise against this. Mr. West has a long history, both as a bank manager and a rental property owner in this town, of abusing and exploiting people with behavioral health challenges and their families. He has a long track record of treating our elders, our disabled and our economically disadvantaged citizens in Fort Sumner (in other words: the majority of us) with contempt and hatred. His banking practices, with economically vulnerable consumers, are predatory: he exploits us for his gain.

Rather than being humbled by and grateful for his fortunate position in town, he sees himself as superior to the rest of us. Despite the "Jesus" fish on his office wall, he has, apparently, never read the red parts of the Bible in which Jesus admonishes, "Whatsoever ye do unto the least of these, that you do also unto Me." I call it, "selective christianity," which I refuse to capitalize, as it's no reflection of Christ-like morals, ethics or ECONOMICS (remember the tables of the money-changers in Jeruselum?). In fact, I usually spell it, "selective xianity." Jesus is no where in it.

In one incident, he came to some one's home with his assistant, whom he had knock on the front door while he ran around back, so the person inside could not, presumably, escape. I will not tell you whose family this was without permission, which I have not yet solicited.

They'd come to collect a MODEST debt. They wanted to do it before the terminally-ill person had a chance to die (the person died within two weeks of this incident). They humiliated and threatened the person and several family members -- INCLUDING THE DYING PERSON'S MOTHER -- to get the money. They suggested that this person pitch HAY to earn the money, although this person was dying of liver disease and cancer, was yellow in color and could barely move, due to severe edema all over the body. They tried to cajole a family member into paying off the debt for the dying person. THEY TRAUMATIZED THE ENTIRE FAMILY, who STILL talks about the incident with grief and pent-up rage, to this day, although the incident happened quite a few years ago. The mother struggles with chronic depression and this traumatic memory was, in her estimation, a contributing factor.

Recently, my account became overdrawn. Mr. West treated me with contempt and impatience over an $18.00 overdraft. When I explained that I have difficulty with the non-chronological bank statements, when I said the typeface was too small and faded to read without magnification, when I pointed out that the online statements were just as bad, Mr. West shrugged it off as my problem.

It would take me hours, every month, to write out all my transactions and balances in chronological order, in order to comprehend them!

When I explained that I don't comprehend numbers as others do, that I could use a bit of assistance with understanding my check book balancing, he said, "We're not a bookkeeping company; we don't provide that service." My banking needs are extremely modest; I don't require formal bookkeeping. I just need a teller to double-check my figuring a couple of times per month for, maybe, five minutes each. Other banks have done this for me for years. I've seen Citizens' do it for other customers!

Turns out, the overdraft was NOT my fault. It was a BOOKKEEPING ERROR ON THEIR END. It was not the first. I've banked at Citizens' Bank of Clovis for less than a year now. This was the SECOND TIME they paid a check I'd written twice. They've also credited one deposit twice.

I've had bank accounts all over the country, in at least a dozen banks, since I was 17 years old. I've had a savings account since I was three, and made deposits myself. I'm 53 now; that's 50 years. I've never had ONE incident like this, let alone THREE, in all that time until I began banking at Mr. West's branch of Citizens'. I was patient and understanding, all three times, even when 2 of those times got me overdraft charges I had to wait to have the bank reverse, tying up my money! I never looked at Citizens' employees or Mr. West the way Mr. West looked at me that day I was overdrawn; pure contempt and smug arrogance exuded from his eyes. It was humiliating. And he refused to acknowledge that I need reasonable accommodation of my disabilities in order to bank safely with Citizens'.

I sent him the attached email. I received no reply:

I've received no apology, either. And my bank statements are still incomprehensible to me.

I will have to close my account at Citizens' in Fort Sumner, in order to protect my finances and reputation from further damage.

I get paid for freelance work: checks that are mailed to me from all over the country, not automatically deposited into my New Mexico Bank & Trust account. I am economically vulnerable and, frequently, need those monies immediately.

The nearest branch of NMBT is in Melrose, 80 miles, round trip or $20 gas. I opened an account at Citizens' here just for the purpose of depositing or cashing freelance checks. For months, I had no vehicle with which I could have made the trip to Melrose. If I close my Citizens' account, it will cause me a great deal of inconvenience. But it will preserve my dignity, my reputation, my finances and my peace of mind. My economic vulnerability has, frequently, left me traumatized and desperate; I don't need Citizens' and Mr. West to exascerbate that!

I'm just so grateful I did not have my Social Security Disability Insurance check direct deposited to Mr. West's bank, but kept it at NMBT! It is the major source of my monthly income and I do not want Mr. West's bank playing fast and loose with that!

Bill West is a MAJOR contributor to this community's behavioral health disabilities! Until and unless he approaches LC 10 with humility and inquisitiveness about behavioral health issues and offers to contribute positively to healing them -- AT HIS OWN BANK and ON HIS OWN RENTAL PROPERTIES -- I see NO benefit to allowing the fox into the henhouse! Consumers and family members will feel resentful, intimidated, alienated, SILENCED and unwelcome! This includes nearly ever consumer and family member currently involved in LC10! We don't need him; we don't want him. Some of us will quit LC 10 if he gets involved!

For Mr. Chavez to have suggested Mr. West to LC 10 -- without ever considering the man's impact on behavioral health in Fort Sumner -- is beyond insensitive.

Rogi Riverstone

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