By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By late January, Brown moved into Jeffrey's former office and took over the management of TUL operations. In a letter dated February 2, Brown told Price that because of the current TUL financial crisis, Price was required to dedicate all his time and effort to raising $200,000 by May 1. All checks were to be signed by Brown; Price's credit cards were forfeited. And Brown insisted that Price turn over all records or receipts concerning the business purpose of his past credit-card charges.
Instead of providing that detail, on February 3, Price lambasted the board both in person and by memo. He said that his records had been stolen and tampered with by his two accusers (Jeffrey and Wright); that he had been "denied due process" by the board's vague accusations against him; that his new "job conditions would turn him into a bread salesman rather than the creative thinker that he is."
Price then asked the board to let an independent "Christian mediator" resolve the issues between them, agreeing to be bound by whatever the mediator decided. Price claimed that over the last five years, he was entitled to approximately $75,000 in automatic raises and bonuses that he never took. Certainly, if he had gone too far with his expense account, he was still entitled to offset those raises. But he wanted an unbiased mediator to decide that issue.
If Price had angered the ideologues on his board with his moderate positions, they now had the cover of a pragmatic reason to safely attack him. In less than three weeks, Price went from saint to sinner. His board was committed to a new cause: to rid themselves of Bill Price. "It was a deep betrayal," Wright says, "and not something we could allow for the sake of our movement and our donors. We had to have more accountability than that."
Price now realized he had lost the board's faith, and he asked his father to intercede on his behalf. On February 15, both Oliver and Bill Price met with McCaslin and Farrell, again offering to mediate the credit-card debt. "They said they didn't consider the credit-card charges significant," Oliver recalls. "They wanted Bill to decide whether he wanted to resign or not. Either way, they wanted him to come to the board meeting the next night and show a spirit of repentance and humility. They said that would settle the whole issue about the charges."
The next night, Bill Price appeared at the board meeting and tendered his resignation. In the spirit of healing, he asked for forgiveness from all the directors--including Jill Jeffrey and Kyleen Wright.
He doubts he received it.
But that's not what happened. On April 3, Price sent out a fund-raising letter, informing some friends and TUL donors that after 17 years "fighting for babies," he had decided to resign in mid-February. "I need some time like a soldier in combat to step back from the fray." With no pension or IRA, no severance, he made "a soft appeal for funds," Price says. "But it was totally within what was allowed by the separation agreement."
On April 20, the TUL board sent out its own letter, announcing that after 25 years, the organization was closing its doors for two primary reasons: "The operating budget is depleted," and Price's use of TUL funds for personal expenses has resulted in his resignation. TUL educational programming would be continued by a group including Kyleen Wright and Jill Jeffrey, operating under the name Texans for Life Coalition. On April 27, The Dallas Morning News ran a front-page story under the headline: "Prominent anti-abortion group closes: Ex-president denies he misused money."
Price saw this article as punishment: "Why would the board reject offers of mediation? That's not what they wanted. They wanted a front-page story that would have a headline about misusing funds. It was pure ambition and revenge from two people who wanted to ruin me and nail the organization shut."
Not true, Wright says. "We were in a crisis mode trying to save our organization. Bill was not in a position to offer that leadership. That was something that could not be mediated."
Questions of betrayal aside, Price says he is ready to move on. He says he knows he can't build anything on "the ground of bitterness and anger," but he still has the same fire for the movement, which he believes, more than ever, is aligned with his own moderate views.
Although a no-compete clause in his separation agreement prevents him from forming a new organization until September, he has begun the process of recruiting a new board of like-minded people.
"I grew up watching things start from scratch," he says. "I may have a steeper hill to climb this time, but I am tanned, and I am rested, and I am ready."