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Shannon Lewis - The True Story

Discussion in 'Cave Diving' started by Capt Jim Wyatt, Apr 1, 2015.

  1. Capt Jim Wyatt

    Capt Jim Wyatt Hanging at the 10 Foot Stop Staff Member

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: High Springs - Cave Country
    There was no disciplinary action by any agency against me regarding the Shannon Lewis accident.

    There was disciplinary action against me for what NACD regarded as stealing $193. This disagreement went on for about a year. They threatened me as you can see in the attached document. They were also angry at me for doing my job as treasurer as exposing tax problems with the IRS before my tenure as treasurer. I have attached two scans of documents sent to the NACD from the IRS after I filed the two year delinquent tax returns.

    The file kicking me out is too large to upload here so I have linked it at: http://www.cavediveflorida.com/NACD-Kicked.pdf . The timing was always suspect to me.

    The words below the line are a report I wrote many years ago. The NACD cleaned up its financial house many years ago and I bring this up to defend against the thinking that NACD disciplined me regarding Shannon Lewis.

    When I was appointed as a BoD member in January 2006 I was asked to be the treasurer. I suspect I was asked to be treasurer because of my formal education in accounting and the fact I had been the business manager/controller for a $5 million IRS 501 ( c ) (3) not for profit business in the Florida Keys for 5 years, and the fact I had owned and operated a successful dive charter business for 5 years as well.

    The first step in my tenure as treasurer was to gather all the records of the business of the NACD. I found no formal bookkeeping procedures or records in place, and as far as I could tell there were none for at least the past two years. There was no way to determine what dollars spent was spent for or what dollars received were earned for. It was obvious to me then that the BoD was operating the financial aspects of the business without benefit of accounting or bookkeeping information.

    No bank statements had been reconciled for over 2 years, no investment account statements had been reconciled either. The reports that I found that the BoD had been accepting for many months, maybe even years were typed pieces of paper with bank and investment account balances. No reconciliations were asked for by the BoD as far as I could ascertain.

    When I asked a few board members about this as well as the operations manager I was told it was someone else’s fault.

    The next step I took was to begin setting up the bookkeeping on a computer using QuickBooks, which is a commercially available piece of software specifically for keeping the books of a business. I own a copy of this program and did not require the NACD to purchase any software or a computer for this.

    When I left the NACD there were 16 months of financial accounting data on the QuickBooks program. All accounts were reconciled and the reconciliations are reflected in the QuickBooks program.

    The NACD is a tax exempt organization under IRS code 501 ( c ) (3). This tax exemption does not relieve the organization from filing an income tax return each year with the IRS. When I began reviewing the records I could find no tax returns for the years 2004 or 2005.

    I inquired with board members and the operations manager about these filings and they indicated that they did not know anything about them, again placing blame on someone else. I called the bookkeeping service that had done the tax returns for the NACD in prior years and he stated that no one from the NACD had contacted his office to do taxes for a couple of years.

    Next I called the IRS and asked about the tax returns. The representative told me no tax returns had been filed for 2004 or 2005 and that the tax exempt status of the NACD was in jeopardy.

    My next move was to again contact the bookkeeping service that had previously prepared the tax returns in prior years and ask him to help us get into compliance with these returns. He asked for all bank statements for the year 2004, and 2005. These statements were no where in the records. I had to call the Bank of America to get the bank statements, this took about 2 weeks for the bank to go back through their archives and get these statements. 24 months, with 5 accounts, so there were 120 individual statements that I needed and also all 120 needed reconciliations to get us up to date for the two years we were delinquent. The billing to the NACD was about $1,000.00 to do this work.

    After I received the old bank statements and the bookkeeping service was able to reconcile them they were able to prepare the tax return, first 2004 and after it was resolved we would file for 2005. After we filed the 2004 return the IRS on September 4, 2006 then sent the NACD a bill for $2,412.60 as a late filing penalty which was due September 25, 2006. See attached.

    After receipt of this bill I notified the BoD and the operations manager everyone was stunned.

    I prepared a letter to the IRS explaining that our current BoD was composed of cave divers with little or no business background and that there was no intention of filing late or of undermining the process, asking for an adjustment of that bill to zero. I further explained that they had appointed me to take care of these business matters in the future and that I am a trained accountant.

    They responded on October 30, 2006 and applied my requested adjustment. So we owed them zero dollars. (See attached letter)

    Now my job was to tackle the 2005 taxes. No need to re-iterate the steps about bank statements, reconciliations and working with the bookkeeper to ensure the taxes finally got filed. It was the same process, the numbers were different.

    We filed the 2005 return and in turn received a letter from the IRS dated December 31, 2006 assessing a $740.00 penalty for filing that tax return. I prepared the same type letter and got the same results. On January 8, 2007 I got the letter from the IRS relieving us of the penalty.

    It is my contention that the members of the NACD BoD, and operations manager have a fiduciary responsibility to the organization and the membership to ensure that all business matters of this nature are taken care of. It is also my contention that the BoD members and operations manager failed in that responsibility.

    I encourage members to think about this failure and decide whether or not they want to continue having several of the same BoD members and operations manager who were either members of the BoD or a paid employee of the organization be responsible for our organization, the oldest cave diver training agency in the world.

    Attached Files:

  2. kwinter

    kwinter Rebreather Pilot

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: South Jersey
    I think it is you that is in denial. You just can't seem to accept that whether or not Shannon made wrong decisions has absolutely no bearing on the judgement of actions by others that came later. "No one is at fault but her, so why look any further?" Get real. Investigations into deaths frequently find fault at many levels. You don't excuse mistakes by one person (I am NOT saying Jim made any mistake in this case) just because someone else made a different mistake first.
    My point is that people have to stop accusing Jim or defending Jim based on what Shannon did. It is his own actions that he should be judged on. I find no fault in what Jim did, but I'm not ignorant enough to avoid looking. Your statement is tantamount to saying that if anyone starts a dive unwisely, it excuses all subsequent acts by anyone else no matter if they are negligent or not. That is totally preposterous.
    As for the NACD Golden Rule, I was taught the same. But "ending the dive" is not defined. I don't remember ever seeing anything about surfacing. It says exit the cave or cavern. Seeing someone to open water and then being waved off might still meet that criteria.

    iPhone. iTypo. iApologize.
  3. cerich

    cerich ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Georgia
    I consider the drama of the cave agencies...and shudder.
  4. rddvet

    rddvet DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Florida
    Several of my buddies are very close personal friends with Wayne, so I have spent some time with/around Wayne as brief acquaintances. He's a very nice guy and I enjoy hearing his stories and his goofy games he plays with people. He seems like a pretty honest guy.

    I've met Jim a couple of times as well because we have friends in common and I've talked to him on the phone once. He seems like a nice, honest straighforward guy. Neither would see me and immediately know my name, and I wouldn't say I have anything against either of them.

    What I can say is that I have heard some of the opinions and comments Wayne has of Jim. I have heard most of them second hand from my buddies that are his close friends, but a couple of comments he's made solidified the truth behind what my friends have shared. I have never been in a position to hear Jim's side of his/Wayne's relationship or do I care to. Based on what I have heard, it is very apparent that Wayne has an axe to grind for Jim. I don't know why and don't really care. It may all have to do with Shannon Lewis. I am in no way calling either man dishonest or full of it, but there is no doubt much more to the story of the relationship between the two that only they will know the truth to. Because it's so obvious there's a problem there, you do really need to know both sides and can't really base a decision on the basis of one man's perceived honesty.

    TONY CHANEY Loggerhead Turtle

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Mount Holly, NC
    And just what does this have to do with the death of Shannon Lewis? Nothing! Why not post the transcripts from the case at hand? I am not against you but you brought this up so let us hear all sides of the death. So if all were well then why settle out of court?

    ---------- Post added April 8th, 2015 at 10:34 PM ----------

    And exactly what does Wayne have to gain in this situation? Nothing!
  6. ajduplessis

    ajduplessis Solo Diver

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: dry land :-(
    The point is the team enters and exists the water together as a team. There is no buddy being waved off or someone doing his own thing. Waving off members within the team leads to nothing but complacency IMO.

    Soooooo much laundry..... The diving industry everywhere is full of egos and bad mouthing and will never stop or mellow down. Its a shame..... diving is such a nice activity.
  7. victorzamora

    victorzamora Solo Diver

    I absolutely don't think it's complacency. In fact, I think it's safer to have a wave-off protocol. I know I've kept going on dives a little longer than I think I should have due to buddy pressure. A "wave-off" procedure fixes that on two fronts. One is that I can turn the dive without "ruining" theirs. If it's a super minor issue, like I've got a leak on one of my regs in sidemount, I can calmly exit while the team goes on ahead. Or my fin is uncomfortable, or I need to visit the little diver's room, or whatever....I can turn the dive without ruining theirs. The other, more major one, is that if I turn the dive I'm telling my buddies to come with me. They can't and won't say crap about it, they'll know it was real, and they'll know to be a little more vigilant of me. So, it makes me more likely to turn when I want to but don't NEED to....and it makes it easier to turn the whole dive when there's something more wrong. When there's something wrong, the entire team should exit without hesitation....but with the ability to have a wave-off, it's not "Man, I wonder if those burritos are upsetting Victor's fragile ecosystem" but a more vigilant "man, I hope that dude's okay."

    I really hope those two quotes aren't related....
  8. rddvet

    rddvet DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Florida

    Again I am not saying Wayne is lying in any way. What does he garner? Lots of attention. People seem to react to his stories and seem to want to be part of the gossip. Do I think he gains monetarily, no. People don't have to gain anything to allow personal spats to spill over into other parts of their life. I'm just saying take it all with a grain of salt. I mean wasn't it admitted supposedly that an expert witness confirmed he bs'd the truth?
    Capt Jim Wyatt likes this.
  9. kwinter

    kwinter Rebreather Pilot

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: South Jersey
    Where does the obligation end?
    At the surface? So all 3 divers surface together and then 2 decide to return and finish their dive while the third heads for shore. And dies along the way to shore. Negligent?
    Oh wait, maybe they all walked back to the table together and 2 decided to return to the water while the third one stayed at the table. And had a heart attack and died. Negligent?

    It is tough to make a distinction between staying with someone to a shallow safety stop or surfacing or leaving the water or going all the way to the car. I have no problem with accepting full responsibility once I wave someone off. It's my problem now, not their's.
  10. danvolker

    danvolker Dive Shop

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Lake Worth, Florida, United States
    Another distinction here....The diving skills of Shannon as a Cave diver, should have been FAR SUPERIOR to the vast majority of recreational Dive Instructors...As such, at this initial point in the dive, with no exotic gas use, no deco, no chance for toxic events....Shannon was in a swimming pool environment. If you are in a deep swimming pool with a Dive Instructor, and the dive instructor indicates they are going up, but for you to keep playing underwater in the pool---should you be afraid for the Dive Instructor ? Should you be concerned that they might not survive in the swimming pool, without your help?
    Is this Dive Instructor the kind of diver that needs to be watched by buddies at all times throughout a dive?
    infieldg likes this.

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