December Issue Erases Co-Founder Colleen Holland as Editor Joe Connelly Attempts to Rewrite History
In March, I wrote about the sad legal dispute over VegNews magazine. Joe Connelly had filed a ridiculous lawsuit against Colleen Holland claiming to be sole owner of VegNews, despite plenty of evidence (and what anyone who was paying attention knew) that the two had co-created and together ran the award-winning publication as partners since its inception 13 years ago.
There has never been any question that Joe and Colleen started VegNews together, growing it from a seed of an idea to a national magazine. Indeed, Joe acknowledged as much in interviews. Even his own bio on the VegNews website explains how he “together with Colleen, launched the magazine in 2000.”
I wish I could say the former couple reached a peaceful and amicable solution to this mess. Instead, despite Colleen’s numerous attempts to settle the matter by offering to split the business 50/50, Joe has only further escalated his spiteful attacks, placing the magazine’s entire future at serious risk.
Below are just a few of the absurd events from the last few months; keep in mind, this is all during a pending lawsuit in which the legal ownership of VegNews remains unresolved. Moreover, a judge has ruled preliminarily that “Ms. Holland demonstrates that she is a co-owner of the business and Mr. Connelly has been misusing his position to her detriment.” Nevertheless, since this decision, Joe has engaged in numerous unethical business practices, including:
- Taking over all of the magazine’s finances and refusing to pay Colleen;
- Locking Colleen out of all VegNews records, including her own email, making it impossible for her to conduct business;
- Firing two employees who disagreed with Joe’s claim that he had sole decision-making authority; the three remaining employees quit in disgust;
- Becoming so violent with rage one day in the VegNews office that police who responded gave Colleen a restraining order against Joe;
- Filing for bankruptcy, claiming he is the sole owner of VegNews;*
- Filing a temporary restraining order against Colleen for daring to show up to the VegNews office, where her name (and only hers) is on the lease.**
And in a particularly galling move, Joe has just put out the December issue of VegNews on his own, without any mention of Colleen. In other words, Joe is acting like there is no lawsuit, no dispute over ownership, and that he’s now in charge, simply by locking Colleen out and pretending she doesn’t exist.
Just one problem: the court system doesn’t work that way, we don’t live in anarchy. Now, in what looks like an end-run around the original litigation, Joe is attempting to resolve the matter by filing personal bankruptcy. (The business is not formally incorporated.) Meanwhile, Joe thinks he can just go on publishing the magazine as if everything is fine. Evade your creditors and screw your partner: what a great model for the vegan movement.
Please support Colleen by letting Joe know that his behavior is unethical and unacceptable and by sharing this post. This week there will be several public court hearings on the matter in San Francisco, all at the United States Bankruptcy Court located at 235 Pine Street. The first is Tuesday, December 3 at 10am. Two others are planned for Wednesday, December 4 and Friday, December 6. Please check back for more details on those and updates.
** 12/4 update: Today the judge correctly denied Joe’s temporary restraining order against Colleen.
* Here is the audio from the first bankruptcy court hearing.