FORBS' War of the Santas

St. Nicks across the country keep fighting for control of America's premier Santa organization

Also fed up, Hartsfield took back the group's AORBS URL, which he had registered years earlier in his name. The action shut down AORBS' web activity. Hartsfield claimed this provoked threats from Trolli, who denied the charge. On Feb. 7, 2008, Trolli registered the AORBSinc.com domain and was back in business (for a while, anyway. . . . The last entry on the website is a 2008 post). Just a few days earlier, Trolli had created SantaCheck.com, asking site visitors, "Is your child safe on that lap?"

It continues, "SantaCheck tries to check the Santa you are thinking about taking your kids to. There are some who put on a red suit and think that is all it takes to earn the right to be with your child. . . . Some of these 'santas' do have a foul mouth."

Trolli and Germann were locked and loaded to go after their Santa adversaries.

Jolly ol' Saint Ric
Riley Kern
Jolly ol' Saint Ric
Real-bearded Santa Timothy Connaghan
Riley Kern
Real-bearded Santa Timothy Connaghan

*     *     *

Some Santas complained to the Kentucky attorney general's office about AORBS Inc., particularly the alleged failure of the board to provide an accurate accounting of the group's finances, which come chiefly from $20 annual member dues. In April 2008, the Kentucky state attorney general's office forwarded its file to the Charitable Organizations Bureau in Pennsylvania, where Trolli lived and where AORBS Inc. was then based. Also in April 2008, amidst all the turmoil, Santa Ric became a founding charter member of FORBS, the newly formed AORBS successor. Started as a national organization, it later became a regional group.

On June 10, 2008, Santa Ric posted on Yahoo! Group SantaTalk a piece titled "God Damn Your Eternal Soul Nick Trolli." Santa Ric . . . a Santa curse?

"Notice that I did NOT address him as 'Santa,'" Ric explained about his cyber-outburst. "I was under stress at the time. Santa Milt Cottrell of Omaha—one of my best friends—had died suddenly, and Nick Trolli had the gall to put up an anti-Milt post."

On July 7, 2008, Pennsylvania's Secretary of the Commonwealth issued a cease-and-desist order to AORBS Inc., charging them with, among other things, unlawfully soliciting charitable contributions without registering with the state. Germann responded that the group's books were "aboveboard," while Trolli said the group was "cooperating" with the state agency.

By July 2008, AORBS Inc. membership had fallen to a few dozen Santas, according to Erwin, mostly new members who were reportedly being told by Trolli that he, as their group's leader, was under attack by a group of disgruntled ex-members. On July 29, 2008, Santa Ric led individual Santas and groups previously associated with AORBS in issuing a "Declaration of Santa Unity" against AORBS Inc. On the AORBSInc.com website, Trolli wrote, "The make-up of the organization has gone through some dark times. . . . Some members did not want to belong to a group that was not owned by Tim Connaghan. Others remained steadfastly committed to their Brothers in Red of AORBS. AORBS is growing again, and the members are determined to live up to our title . . . under the leadership of Nicholas Trolli—'The Nation's Premier Fraternity of A-List Santas.'"

The mainstream media picked up the tale. In 2008, the Wall Street Journal reported on the Santa "Civil War," and NPR's This American Life dug into the story. The Kansas convention of Discover Santa 2008 sponsored by AORBS Inc. never happened. Trolli blamed former AORBS members for its demise, allegedly brought on by a campaign to dissuade vendors and fellow Santas from attending. That fall, Trolli and Germann went on the offensive, using their SantaCheck.com to punish enemies real and imagined.

On Sept. 29, 2008, they wrote about "a 'Santa' who is sexually attracted to overweight older men." The report said a Florida Santa—"a member of the International Order of Santas"—"has removed his shocking, disgusting links to adult sites that feature him in the nude." Apparently, according to SantaCheck.com, this Santa "got our website SantaCheck.com turned off" because he "was upset that we exposed his gay lifestyle. Specifically, a lifestyle wherein he sexually pursued FAT OLDER MEN."

SantaCheck.com also targeted Santa Ric in numerous posts. On Oct. 16, 2008, Trolli and Germann published "Santa's Girthday Party?"

"Just in case you all forgot about the most foul 'santa' page we have found, do NOT forget about Ric Erwin, the LA Fair 'santa claus' from Laguna Niguel," someone wrote. "We previously reported that Ric Erwin . . . posted on his ricnvic.com video site a video of his Birthday Party. Oh, wait, it wasn't his Birthday Party, he . . . called it 'Santa's Girthday Party.'"

The online video referenced in their post was Erwin's and titled "How Santa Got His Yule Log Back," showing Santa Ric watching a belly dancer.

By 2010, things had cooled down at SantaCheck.com. The last post went up on April 14, 2010, targeting yet another Trolli critic. In a June 25, 2009, post titled "Naughty Traveling Claus Clan Shames the Name of Santa," Defendingsanta.com spanked a Connaghan Santa summer cruise for allowing Santas in full garb to get their pics taken at a well-known Alaskan touristy "brothel museum." Then the site "editor" completely harshed the Santa mellow with lines, unsupported by citation of sources, such as "Over the past several years, the industry of professional Santa Claus services has been rocked by scandals ranging from infighting and greed within professional Santa organizations to ongoing issues with Santas accused (and in some cases convicted) of predatory crimes against children."

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7 comments
BobLoblawsLawBlog
BobLoblawsLawBlog

"what's with no seat belts on school buses, anyway?"

An excellent question I, myself, have asked before. I do, however, have an answer to that old question.

The school bus seats are designed and spaced in a matter to prevent serious injury to children. They are designed to contain them like cubicles because the children are not likely to all be seated and facing forward. "Ah! But wouldn't seatbelts make THAT more likely?" you may interject. For some, yes, they would sit facing forward and belted into their seats. But more than likely they would not, they are children surrounded by their friends and peers and are relatively unsupervised. The other issue is that there is no way to ensure that the kids do buckle-up and remain buckled for the duration of the trip. Death and injury attributed to accidents for children riding in a school bus are extremely rare and it would also be cost prohibitive to retrofit millions of busses with seatbelts that would have a negligable effect.

drjeckel
drjeckel

Jeff Germann will hopefully stay disappeared.  He joined an established group named American Leaders and wanted to portray Davey Crockett.  He concocted a very tacky Crockett costume made of a very shiny fawn vinyl material that made him look like a doorman to a sleazy frontier themed casino in Las Vegas.  Then after being told that the group was nonprofit and apolitical, proceeded into working his extreme rightwing philosophy into his presentations.  He had an appearence set up to do Davey for the local Council of Churches, then stood them up because he felt they were a liberal group. This caused some influential people in the community to have very negative views of the American leaders group and demand for the group evaporated.


Finally the last straw happened at an Event called Artfest in Springfield, Missouri.  It had been an event that the American leaders had been invited to for several years and reimbursed handsomely for.  Germann in a rather foolish attempt to be funny, pulled out a long knife and threatened to remove a temporary tatoo from a little 4 year old boy's face.  His mother was aghast and complained to an organizer and American Leaders lost that event as a paying appearence due to this very stupid act and also lost credibility with the public and have had very few requests for work due to this person's behavior.  He was kicked out of the group but unfortunately the damage was done.  Yes, let us hope that the man has truly disappeared.

whateveryousay
whateveryousay topcommenter

Any time grown men want to dress up as fictional characters to get kids to sit on their laps gives me the creeps. 

BobLoblawsLawBlog
BobLoblawsLawBlog

Hey, great article btw. I remember hearing about it on TAL a while ago. This helped fill-in a lot of the blanks.

 
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