A founder and former member of Tri-State Alliance says it is time for Wally Paynter to go.

TSA has been a rock for so many LGBT’s in Evansville and beyond, and when one young man joined in 2000 it was no different. He wants his identity hidden for this story.

This alleged victim of Paynter shared his story because he hopes others may not suffer. He says what happened between him and Paynter when he was 15 years-old still hasn’t escaped him.

“We were watching a movie and he made a reference to a character, then took my hand and placed it on his crotch,” he said. “It’s something I’m never going to forget.”

People with roots in TSA’s origin say the “me too” movement needs to include males. They say there’s more victims from within TSA.

The young man remembers feeling trapped and scared of Paynter as a boy. He told a youth group member and Child Protective Services what happened, but he says nothing changed.

“It made me feel like I had no credibility,” he said, “I was all alone, that I was overacting about all this.”

After all these years, his voice echoes with others who claim Paynter did them wrong.

Yvon Lauren was a founding member of TSA decades ago. While she never worked with Paynter, she has watched him become the center of attention with waves of allegations about misusing money and sexual misconduct.

Lauren believes Paynter’s involvement with TSA is about personal gain. “I don’t see it as moving forward to encompass the community.”

Lauren has started a support group on Facebook for male victims of sexual abuse, called Tri-State Men Me Too.

She and Paul Mefford believe Paynter should step away from TSA. Mefford is a social worker and served on the TSA board for years.

“I have heard from four different victims in the process of bringing this all to light and it goes through me like a knife,” Mefford said.

He says it’s hard for anyone to talk about sexual abuse but especially men and boys. “There’s such a cultural stigmatism against talking about it.”

Paynter did not answer a phone call Tuesday, but he responded in a text. He denies the allegations but did not answer follow-up questions. He says the allegations are a character assassination campaign.

TSA is a rock for many, but for the young man in this story, he says it caused him to crumble.

“I believe Mr. Paynter is the definition of a predator. I believe everything he does is calculated.”

Evansville Police said Tuesday there is no active investigation into Paynter or Tri-State Alliance.

You can read a full state from Lauren to Paynter below.

My spouse and I are original principal incorporators of Tri-State Alliance.  I chaired, co-chaired, and attended every meeting and function from the first meeting into the late 1980s.  TSA had its first meeting in the fall of 1982 and its first Pride Picnic in 1983.  Our meetings were co-chaired by a male and female.  No leaders are perfect but we as a group wrote by-laws that were inclusive of all members of the LGBT community, including the Transgender community.  Transgender people also served as officers.  I wrote and organized and filed the original incorporation filing for 501c status, which was approved.  So I know what I am talking about. 

Neither Wally Paynter nor Kelly Coures had any involvement in the early development of TSA.  Kelly claims 40 years of involvement, which would be starting in 1978 – when the group began in 1982.  In some of Wally and Kelly’s “history,” Wally would have been a very young teen at the time his involvement with TSA is purported to have begun, and TSA had no teen group then.  After this was drawn to his attention, Wally moved the date to 1989. 

When my spouse and I moved away in the late 1980s, 2 other co-chairs were the designated leaders.  In Dec 1989, one of those individuals wrote me a letter about resigning to care for an AIDS patient.  Later, upon request, I sent historical documentation, non-profit information, and newsletters to people purporting to be doing a TSA re-organization, to show the contributions of so many individuals in the LGBT community during the 1980s.  Yet, a new history was created that did not include the many contributions of the early members and supporters.  

The original group matters!  Many died of AIDS.  We arranged the first AIDS education with Millie Knodel of the Health Department.  She and Wally Corbett were a Godsend to our group.  We organized many types of workshops and fundraisers.  It’s no cake-walk now, but the early days were extremely difficult.  Some people were so afraid of AIDS that they wouldn’t shake hands with anybody in the group (male or female).  When the Patchwork building burned, some people worried about AIDS and refused to let us meet in their buildings.  The Unitarians stepped up and we met there. 

I say all this for 2 reasons:  1) historical accuracy, and 2) to let the public know that the old original group is not involved in the current TSA controversies.  I have lived out of state for most of the past 30 years and had no idea how dysfunctional the organization is reported to have become.   

In the spring of 2017, because of my history with TSA, I was contacted about concerns about TSA.  Various individuals have spoken up about their concerns over the past 1 ½ years.  People with complaints were referred to the appropriate agencies.  It is not up to me to determine innocence or guilt.  But it is my opinion – given all accrued knowledge I have about this group, concerned people, and life experience – that Wally Paynter should resign effective immediately, if for no other reason than because TSA was never to have a “King,” but Wally Paynter seems to have assumed that position.  I’m not discounting the contributions or questioning the motives of other current members who may have pure motives, but Wally has assumed a singular position of power that was never intended by the original organizers. 

The by-laws were rewritten – groups do that.  But according to what I’ve been told and what I see, the community no longer seems to consider Wally to be a respected leader.  Investigations may need to be done.  Area groups with similar goals do not seem to see him as an ally (they need to be asked about this).  Wally Paynter needs to resign, or should we bring in a tractor and a chain?  Once he has resigned, we in the LGBT community can call a large meeting and regroup – whatever that means.   

I heard Wally speak of “transparency” at a press conference on 15-Sept-2018.  Then he denied the press any answers regarding process, audits, and records. Wally may say he “serves at the pleasure of the Board.”  But the LGBT community has left him.  He needs to step aside.  There are so many young, bright, and skilled people capable of cleaning up this controversy and moving the community forward. I’m not suggesting that older LGBT members be put out to pasture.  But, for goodness sake, let some new thoughts in!  I cannot predict the way the movement will go on, but it will go on.  But first, Wally needs to exit the building! 

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(This story was originally published October 2, 2018)