According to the Huntington Beach Police Department, Jan Harzan, who has served as the International Director of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) since 2013, was arrested on July 3 for solicitation of a minor. This news came to light on July 14 when the Huntington Beach Police Department posted the following notice on their Facebook page:
“On July 3, detectives contacted a male by the name of Jan Harzan after Harzan solicited sexual activity from a detective he believed was a 13 year old girl. The suspect solicited the minor to meet for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity, and when the suspect agreed to meet the supposed minor, detectives were there to take him into custody.”
The Huntington Beach Police Department Adult Arrest Log also notes the arrest.
According to freelance journalist Tim McMillan, the Huntington Beach Police Department also sent out a press release. A journalist whom McMillan has worked with in the past, MJ Banias and Vice senior staff writer Anna Merlin were the first to publish a mainstream article on Harzan’s arrest.
Yesterday, July 15, the MUFON Board of Directors responded with a short statement:
“In light of recent events, Jan Harzan has been permanently removed as the Executive Director of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON). Effective immediately, he will no longer serve any role in the organization.
David MacDonald, Executive Director Emeritus and a member of the MUFON Board of Directors, will now assume the duties of Executive Director. MUFON remains committed to its core mission: the study of UFOs for the benefit of humanity. This mission is greater than any one person or member of MUFON and supersedes all other considerations. We will continue to move forward and focus on our mission statement.”
As the statement notes, MacDonald has previously served as MUFON’s Executive Director. MacDonald has a colorful past. Vice covered his previous work in a 2015 article titled Raunchy Tales from the Pilot of a Mile-High Club Plane. The subtitled reads: “Pilot David MacDonald makes a living flying folks around—while they get it on in the back of his plane.”
When asked if MacDonald would get requests beyond just taking couples up to have sex, he responded:
“Yes, I have. We had somebody bring their dog. We’ve had requests for threesomes. We actually had a request from some people in Iceland. Now, these folks have too much time on their hands in Iceland and they wanted to know if we had an airplane which would accommodate ten couples and are there any restrictions, save damage to the airplane or injury to the pilot.”
In the article, he also said that clients had asked him to join them, but he always refuses.
In 2012, blogger Billy Cox wrote an article on MacDonald taking over the lead position at MUFON. Cox also covered MacDonald’s interesting mile-high club business. Cox also asked MacDonald about MUFON’s controversial new practice of performing a background check on their certified UFO field investigators. MUFON often dispatches Field investigators to speak with witnesses.
“We weeded out a number of criminals and scam artists and at least one pedophile.” MacDonald explained. “Can you imagine sending a thief or a pedophile into someone’s house? I don’t even want to think about those liability issues.”
In the spirit of full disclosure, I was a MUFON field investigator for a few years in the early 2000s. I also handled MUFON public relations and served as their official spokesperson in the late 2000s. I do not bring up MacDonald’s past to equate his legitimate business with the alleged heinous crime committed by Harzan. However, MUFON leadership has always been predominately old, white, and male. Harzan’s alleged offense and the mile-high airline have in common that they both can be considered “creepy” or “pervy.”
Putting a PR hat on, it is horrible to replace an old, white alleged pedophile with an old, white guy who ran a pervy airline, especially if you want to avoid this sort of media attention. What message is being sent to the public?
I am not the one who feels this way. In the Vice article regarding Harzan, the authors point out a couple of MUFON scandals involving racist comments from leaders within the MUFON organization.
The first scandal was also covered in an article by Newsweek. John Ventre was the state director for Pennsylvania when he went on a tirade on Facebook about a Netflix show he accused of promoting “white genocide.”
“Everything this world is was created by Europeans and Americans,” Ventre fumed. “F’ing blacks didn’t even have a calendar, a wheel or a numbering system until the Brits showed up.”
Harzan responded that MUFON had nothing to do with an individual’s social media. However, the backlash grew, and after several prominent members threatened to quit, Ventre was finally relieved of his state director position. Many were told he was kicked out of MUFON altogether, but that was not the case.
In January of 2018, scientist Chris Cogswell took the position of MUFON’s Director of Research. He quit in April once he found out that Ventre was still working for MUFON.
“When I first joined MUFON, taking on the Director of Research position, I believed this issue [with Ventre] had been dealt with,” Cogswell told Newsweek.
Cogswell says in April he received an email from Ventre regarding the annual MUFON symposium. Ventre was organizing it. Within hours of receiving the email, Cogswell resigned.
More recently, another MUFON state director, Ken Pfeifer, posted racist comments on his Facebook as well. Regarding Black Lives Matter, he wrote: HOLY SHIT….I WOULD OF PICKED THEIR COTTON FOR THEM….IF I THOUGHT IT WOULD END THIS BLM RACIST MADNESS.”
Despite calls for concern, Harzan said he did not see any racist messages on Pfeifer’s Facebook. Pfeifer kept that post up until recently. He still has a meme posted that reads: “Tear gas isn’t working. Lob job applications at them and see how fast they run.”
How is this all connected? MUFON leadership has always wondered why they can’t get more young people, more diversity, and more women involved. Meanwhile, the latest director has been arrested for being an alleged pedophile, the previous/new director ran a pervy airline, and racist comments by MUFON leaders are not only tolerated but allowed to continue without consequence.
Imagine being a young woman interested in this topic or a person of color. Would you feel comfortable going to a MUFON meeting at this point? As a parent, would you want your child involved with such an organization? MUFON’s problems need a much stronger response than only letting Harzan go.
Despite appearances, MUFON is full of great people interested in a similar topic, UFOs. Having recently lived in Arizona, I am great friends with the people who run that chapter. In fact, they are some of my closest friends. I have been a MUFON supporter for many years. I do not feel these controversies represent the organization as a whole, but the rot from within won’t go away by ignoring it exists.
NOTE: During all of these controversies, as a previous spokesperson for the organization, I have sent MUFON board members and directors emails regarding my suggestions on how to deal with these issues. Although we have worked together on other matters, my suggestions on these matters have not been acknowledged.
Great article AR 🙂
After I first heard about Harzan’s arrest on July 14, I read a message thread on Reddit, where many of them-there young’uns raised a number of the same points you discussed here. They saw MUFON as a group of older white men, which did nothing to increase younger membership. Interestingly, they also discussed the situation of John Ventre, seeing his continued presence at MUFON as evidence of an “old boy network”.
I really dont think the lack of young people has anything to do with the issues mentioned in this article. As one of these young people, or younger people, I know the personal views no matter how awful of individual members, whether in leadership positions or not, has no play whatsoever in my involvement with MUFON. It doesnt for any younger people ive spoken to either. I have been involved in MUFON for years, even representing Oregon at the State Directors meeting at the last symposium in NJ in 2018 when the actual director could not make it. I usually attend all the symposiums and try and make it to the local meetings when I am in town. There are lots of young people who attend the meetings in Oregon. The thing is, it cost money to be a member. You can attend the meetings many places without being a member or paying, but it still cost money to be a member and you get little value out of it. Conferences cost money to attend, even if they are local. Its hard for people to come up with that money. Its even hard for adults to spend the money to goto the symposium or even pay yearly membership dues. To ask the youth to come up with it is just unrealistic for most. I know thats why you dont see many if any any various UFO conferences. Sure you get the locals at the Roswell fest and in McMinneville. You get some locals at the IUFOC. But mostly its people travelling, and it cost alot of money to attend even if you can get the time off. Not every is as fortunate as I am do this full time and travel around to most all the conferences like I do.
You also have alot of the issues mentioned on a recent podcast about the Harzan arrest on Spaced Out Radio. Many youth just dont see the need to join an organization like MUFON. Even if they have the money to officially do so. They dont see the need for showing up to face to face meetings or going to conferences. They get their information from the internet, tv, etc..They also share information and converse this way. If they want to meet in person, they can attend MUFON Or other meetings without ever needing to join MUFON. The only real reason to join unless you want to be a field investigator, is for the journal. Which you can also easily obtain for free online with a little googling. What does MUFON really give anyone? Not just young people. I dont think this is a young person centric issue really at all.
What MUFON does, as an organization, as its mission, may not match up with what people are trying to do. I find when talking to alot of youth (and not just youth, but the younger generation has done alot of their learning more recently from internet sources and dont have the background of people who have been in this field as long as many of us) about UFOs they either come in a few categories. Some are just so incredulous and believe anything they are told. They are the Delonges, the people who buy into everything Ancient Aliens says, the people who think Lazar is some sort of a UFO Messiah. The people who get their ‘facts’ from places like SecureTeam10. They actually seem to find MUFON too serious and unbelieving in alot of the crazy things they want to believe in. Honestly we can do without them, because they dont add anything positive or scientific to MUFON or Ufology as a whole.
Then you have others such as my self, that find MUFON a bit too incredulous. An organization that claims to be about the scientific investigation of UFOs but could not be further from scientific in their approach. People like me who take a more skeptical and academic approach to UFOs might find it hard to throw money at MUFON when they dont think its going to be used wisely. I mean i still pay my dues and goto the conference and all that, even tho I think MUFON is heavily involved in alot of pseudoscience. MUFON lost alot of its good members not because of scandals like racism, but because of things like the 2017 MUFON conference. Filled with secret space program and other fringe UFO topics. Sarah Scoles recent book absolutely nails in when she talks about the problems with MUFON and alot of Ufology. I thought Cogwells left MUFON back then because of the lineup of the 2017 conference? They must of got him back somehow. So you have alot of people who may not find how MUFON does things the best approach and are hesitant to put money towards it. Or to spend a lot of time volunteering in the organization. I personally dont find much value in being a field investigator and being sent to investigate all sorts of completely pointless lights in the sky cases. Only for them to automatically label anything they cannot ABSOLUTELY PROVE WASNT a UFO as a UFO. Or the fact they label UFOs as UAVs now, even tho that acronym already has a meaning. And its means DRONES. Sots its confusing and ridiculous that MUFON labels unknowns as UAVs now. Im sure alot of people feel the same as me (even tho, again, i am involved in with MUFON on some level some of the time).
Then you have some people that are kind of down the middle and agree with alot of what MUFON is doing and stick around. This is true for young people, and there are always some at most meetings ive gone too. As well as a wide range of races and genders. Its a pretty diverse group. It may not be in the positions of power, but i doubt that has anything to do with any systemic prejudice, just circumstance.
So anyway, there are many reasons MUFON may not be drawing in the younger crowd. I doubt any of them are because of the issues in this article. They havent been for any youth I have spoken to. And when they talk about MUFON being an ‘old boy network’ its not because its old white men in power. Its because its the same old group of people that have been running things forever. The fact they all may be some race or gender has nothing to do with anything. I certainly dont think we should force people in roles just to fill out some diversity checklist. We need the right people, qualified people, in the positions of leadership. Whoever they may be. People talk about the lack of women in MUFON alot, but I dont see that at all. Its mostly women I see at meetings, symposiums. Its almost always the women running things. Alot of the most well known MUFON members are Women. If there are not more women in positions of leadership, I doubt that is because they are specifically being excluded when they want the job. Its because people tend to keep their jobs a really long time (like State Directors are rarely REMOVED, they either quit or die or whatever, and then someone else can run, its not like they hold regular elections of any kind for any role in MUFON). There are alot of SD that are Women tho. I think its again, just circumstance. A lack of people showing interest in those positions, when they are available. Which is almost never. I wanted to get in a position of leadership for years, to no avail. Even tho I was younger than basically everyone else and I thought they could use some fresh blood yet been in this field for a very long time. One of the reasons alot of the people are older that are heavily involved in running things, is because they have the time to do it. They are retired or otherwise. Its not a lack of interest but availability and ability.