Dear Amy: Over the course of our 16-year marriage my ex-husband often acted impulsively, in ways that were perhaps explained but not excused by his bipolar disorder.
Just after our second child was born, he kissed and groped a student at the local college whom he’d hired for a small job.
The student was appropriately angry and got a lawyer to threaten a civil case against him for sexual harassment.
To avoid this becoming public, he accepted the lawyer’s proposal of a $40,000 payment in exchange for her silence.
I felt horribly complicit in keeping this secret, but with a baby, a toddler, and an upside-down mortgage, it was hard to imagine doing otherwise.
Our marriage survived only to weather several years of his opioid addiction, which once again drained our life savings.
Four years ago, I finally left him, got counseling for myself and our teens, and found happiness.
He remarried, and maintains a positive reputation as a businessman and philanthropist.
Recently I was shocked to learn that he’s a candidate for a prestigious appointment to the board of the alumni foundation of that same local college.
I feel like I should expose his past behavior to the foundation, but I’m second-guessing my motives.
I don’t want to deal with the hurt from a bad marriage by lashing out: I’d rather ignore him and move on.
On the other hand, the young woman on whom he forced unwanted contact is also an alumna. How would she feel seeing his face on the board?
I don’t have a record of her last name or the lawyer’s, much less a copy of the paperwork, so if I do report this history it may sound like gossip to them.
What’s the right thing to do here?
— Unwilling Secret-Sharer
Dear Unwilling: You should seek legal advice regarding your options and the impact on all parties.
I am not a lawyer, but (to me) your ex-husband’s behavior sounds more like sexual assault than harassment. His choice to purchase his victim’s “silence” for a large sum means that she likely signed a non-disclosure agreement prohibiting her from disclosing or discussing the assault. I’m assuming that you did not sign an NDA.
Even if your ex has completely reformed, and understanding that he has paid his debt to his victim (but not society), he is quite literally returning to the scene of the crime in an exalted position, and I think this past behavior is germane.
Before being appointed, he might be asked to sign a document guaranteeing that he has not been the subject of a lawsuit involving the college. If he does so, and lies about it, he could face consequences that would be far worse than the college merely withdrawing this offer.
If you care about this institution, you might also consider that their reputation will be adversely affected if they appoint your ex and this settlement is later exposed.
I suggest you contact the college.
Dear Amy: I’m at an age when many people retire.
Unfortunately, I’m not able to do that. All the same, I’m trying to plan ahead. My financial adviser wants to include in the planning any possible inheritance I may get when my remaining parent dies.
I don’t feel I can ask my 90-year-old mother how much she’s leaving me! That’s just crass.
Do other people actually get this information in advance?
I understand why it would be helpful to have, but I don’t know how to handle this.
I’d appreciate your advice.
— Nonplussed Daughter
Dear Nonplussed: Yes, some people receive very detailed information about their parents’ estates, and this can be very helpful.
If you are your mother’s only child, it would be a good idea for her to inform you about her plans, in at least general terms.
You could ask her, “Mom, do you have a will drawn up? Do you have an executor who has access to all the documents? My financial adviser has suggested that it would be a good idea for me to know at least the basics of your estate planning.”
Dear Amy: Your snarky response to “No Gaslight” about families lying to their children about the existence of Santa Claus made me mad.
I don’t mean to disrespect you, but I have to point out that your opinions aren’t valid because your opinions are just based on your personal beliefs.
Dear Observer: No disrespect taken. Because what you describe is actually the very definition of an opinion.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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