Less than a week after The Washington Post released the infamous Donald Trump conversation featuring Billy Bush, the real estate industry experienced its own microcosm of the national hot mic moment — minus the recording, but including the bus.
What became a digital firestorm was ignited by a blog post on Medium from broker associate Stacie Perrault Staub.
Her story, published four days ago, involves an alleged graphic exchange among male industry professionals at a real estate event — one of Inman’s — that left her frightened.
With more than 20,000 views and nearly 15,000 “reads” to date (according to Medium stats), the attention quickly brought forth the accused, who claim they’ve been wrongly portrayed.
In the interim, the dispute touched a nerve among industry professionals and leaders, who have scrutinized the accounts from every angle.
Here’s how the events unfolded.
Blog post heard ’round the real estate world
On Thursday, Oct. 13, Perrault Staub released a firsthand account of what she allegedly heard on a private shuttle while being transported from one real estate industry gathering to another.
According to Perrault Staub’s article, she and her small group of friends boarded the bus and, shortly after settling in, were “horrified” by disturbing comments coming from a few rows back.
Without naming names, Perrault Staub says she soon “recognized their voices – from the conference stage, from podcasts, from highly regarded industry panels, and from the hotel lobby’s lounge, where I had chatted with each of them throughout the week.”
In the post, Perrault Staub details the exchange involving violent and sexually graphic remarks toward women, ending with a direct address toward those on the bus:
“Are you ladies learning something up there?! Don’t ever cheat on your man or he has every right to fuck you up.”
Word hits the street, accused step forward with their story
Since the post’s release, Inman confirmed that the event allegedly happened in the context of Inman Connect San Francisco in August (a little over two months before Perrault Staub’s post) and that the other witnesses on the shuttle were global real estate advisor and broker Nicole Beauchamp and corporate trainer and international speaker Valerie Garcia.
On Friday, Oct. 14, the men Perrault Staub anonymously wrote about began coming forward with their story.
Through a series of posts — both in comments on Facebook threads and in videos (the videos have since been removed from Facebook and reposted on YouTube) — three men stated that they had been on the bus and were participants in the conversation, but that it didn’t unfold as Perrault Staub had written.
Those who claim to be falsely accused include founders of the private Facebook group Lab Coat Agents (LCA), Nick Baldwin and Tristan Ahumada, and Keller Williams agent Ronnie George.
LCA founders give a statement
Baldwin and Ahumada, leaders and admins of the 40,000-plus member LCA Facebook group, provided the following statement to Inman in a response to a request for comment:
“Over the past few days, Nick and I have been accused making some disconcerting statements which we would like to address firmly. We hope that our explanation will put any misunderstandings to rest.
“This past August, Nick and I were seated on a private bus that was driving several people to a party (awards ceremony). During the short ride, we were also seated close to an acquaintance of ours who began discussing his heartbreak over his recent divorce and his resurgence from it.
“The man detailed how traumatized and distressed he was feeling, and we respectfully absorbed his story and showed compassion and understanding. Female passengers sitting many rows in front of us overheard portions of the conversation of the man’s account of his relationship and divorce which had absolutely nothing to do with us.
“Nick and I are both happily married and have the utmost respect for our wives, and for all women in general. We are very saddened that this situation has escalated to such a high level but are hopeful that these facts will clear up any false impressions of who we are professionally and personally.”
Ronnie George responds
In George’s video statement, originally deleted then later posted by another party to YouTube, he describes how he told a story about his journey through a painful divorce that wasn’t relayed “in a manner of anger or hatred or disrespect.”
In a response to a request for comment, George provided the following statement to Inman.
“My entire life has been completely torn apart over the past five days. I lost my team leader position with Keller Williams that I had recently acquired only 3.5 weeks ago.
“My license as a salesperson is on the chopping block seeing how the media is pressuring Keller Williams Realty International for statements about what they are going to do as the three men are all Keller Williams agents.
“I’m going through a custody case for my youngest daughter (not with my ex-wife, as I have been officially divorced since May of 2015), and this has been used against me by her.
“I have lost clients that have heard about the article and wanted to distance themselves from the negative publicity.
“All of these things resulted because I stepped up and made a video in attempts to help my friends out. I wanted to make it clear that what was said in the blog post was not true and that I know my character as well as Tristan and Nick’s character as we do not condone this type of language nor do we conduct ourself in that manner.
“I ultimately named myself in a situation because I was doing what I felt was right. I was trying to convey that the conversations happened but the language implied by the original blog post were embellished and not what was said.
“All this did was drive a wedge between the issue at hand and cause a ‘he said, she said’ type situation which only fueled the fire.
“This entire situation has been driven and fueled by the pain experienced by multiple accounts from women who have put up with harassing comments and behavior over the years in similar types of situations as described in the blog post. This has been an opportunity to shed light on a painful subject matter and I believe it’s long overdue.
“As I said in my video, I do not condone this type of behavior whatsoever. I have always conducted myself in a very respectful manner toward others and make it a point to watch what I say when around others.
“Regardless of what was said, was not said or what was interpreted I feel that I personally owe Stacie an apology along with the other women on the bus that evening.
“The very fact that the things allegedly said by me have in some way affected you and had caused discomfort in your surroundings upsets me. I never want to be that type of person who says offensive things or upsets others by my actions. So, I sincerely apologize if the manner in which I conducted myself that evening upset you in any way.
“My only request is that we focus on the issue at hand and that there is some good that comes from all of this (new policies, awareness, preventative measures). Because I can assure you that my entire life has been turned upside down. I’m facing the loss of a career that I have built over a 10-year period. One that I absolutely love and have poured my heart into.”
Two women corroborate Perrault Staub’s story
On Saturday, Oct. 15, both Garcia and Beauchamp published their own online posts about what allegedly happened on that bus, corroborating Perrault Staub’s account of events.
In a response to Inman’s request for comment, they both stated “my post says it all.”
Beauchamp writes on Medium: “I was there. Sitting next to my friend. A line was crossed. One that should never be breached.”
She also mentions witnesses who saw her state of mind right after they exited the bus:
“Those of you who saw me when I got off the bus, this lovely early evening in one of my favorite cities in the world, knew something wasn’t quite right. Those of you especially close to me have heard about it far more — because it did shake me — even with all the other real life stuff currently going on — which you know is a lot — it shook me. And I don’t shake lightly.”
Garcia’s post addresses the timing of the story and those questioning their motives: “Here is what I know for sure. I was there and the accounting of the experience was accurate,” Garcia wrote. “Despite many who have said otherwise, or questioned the timing, the sharing of this story was not done lightly.
“It was not without many weeks of conversation amongst the three women, and it was not concocted out of spite or retaliation. It was not timed to create damage or cause financial pain. We had no personal motivation to lie or embellish. And it was not the first time the story was told.”
Commentators weigh in
Before Beauchamp and Garcia published their accounts, that same day — amid a flurry of social media discussions — well-known blogger Rob Hahn, aka Notorious R.O.B., gave his take on Medium with a post titled “Before We Hang ’Em High, Can We Convict First?”
Here, Hahn publicly disclosed the other two women’s identities and released all the information he’d collected or received thus far, including the video statements.
He wrote: “Somebody is lying. I can’t say who, because I haven’t heard the other side of the story, but this post here is a public request — nay, a demand — that the gentlemen in question produce their version of the conversation as they remember it.”
The post, in addition to naming the accused, noted the alleged blowback against LCA, including refund demands from registered attendees to the group’s upcoming event, “Live.”
As evidence that the conversation continues past the weekend, commenters today have taken to a new post Hahn published Sunday (Oct. 16) on his own blog, in which he apologizes for publicly revealing Beauchamp and Garcia’s names without first notifying the women personally.
With a changed perspective on the issue, Hahn stated, “I feel much more comfortable drawing conclusions,” about what happened.
Code of Conduct and other reactions
On Friday, after confirming that this alleged incident took place at an Inman event, publisher Brad Inman announced the following code of conduct for all readers and event attendees:
Inman is committed to creating a safe and inclusive experience for our readers, customers and attendees, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race or religion. We do not tolerate harassment in any form.
All communication — including at the event and various associated venues, as well as online — should be appropriate for a professional audience, including people of many different backgrounds and experiences.
Be kind to others. Do not insult or put down other attendees. Act professionally. Remember that harassment and sexist, racist or exclusionary jokes are not appropriate at any time at any Inman event or online setting.
Anyone violating these rules may be asked to leave the conference or online forum without a refund at the sole discretion of the Inman staff. If you are being harassed, notice that someone else is or have any concerns, please contact a Inman staff team member immediately.
Thank you for helping make Inman welcoming, friendly places for all to share new ideas, learn and connect.
The new policy is now available in the footer of the inman.com website and became effective immediately upon announcement on Friday.
Keller Williams spokesman Darryl Frost provided the following statement to Inman: “Derogatory statements and actions have no place in our Keller Williams’ culture. We take these matters seriously, and have taken immediate action.”
Editor’s note: We will update this post with additional news and comments as they arrive. The story has been updated to include comments from Keller Williams and a statement from Ronnie George.