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LGBT community speaks out: The Board must resign

Editor's note: The four-part series will include legal commentary on ramifications for firing a whistleblower, commentary on the divide among older and younger generations regarding the direction of Pride, and the potential effects on the upcoming Consolidated Association of Pride (CAPI) conference scheduled to take place January 21-24.

Several hundred people gathered Sunday night at the San Diego LGBT Community Center at a Town Hall Meeting to discuss the recent actions by local 501(c)3 nonprofit San Diego Pride.

The meeting was called in response to the decision of Board Chair Philip Princetta, Treasurer Mike Karim and Secretary Carl Worrell’s decision to waive Pride’s bylaws in order to gift $5,000 to Princetta for “his service to the organization since 2002”; the alleged termination of Pride’s Executive Director Ron deHarte for whistleblowing the action; and the subsequent resignation of Pride’s Director of Development, Ken St. Pierre and Production Assistant Jeffrey Redondo for their “loss of confidence” in the organization’s current leadership.

Although Princetta has since returned the gift to Pride, the Board has maintained their position of non-resignation.

Neither Princetta, Worrell or Karim attended the meeting.

KGTV Channel 10, who sent a news crew out to cover the meeting, was turned away. An unknown representative connected to the organization of the town hall indicated no video cameras would be permitted inside.

Said Aaron Borovoy, former Board President of Temple Emanuel, “Board 101 simply states, well the fact that the Board even made this payment, and took so long to respond to criticism of the payment, and then, not being here to hear how the community feels about that, sends a very strong message to me- that they really don’t have our best interests at heart. And the fact that the Executive Director was fired- well, you’re not going to be able to tell me there wasn’t a direct cause and effect there.”

Said longtime San Diego Pride volunteer and SDGLN Higher Education and Non-profit Liaison Benny Cartwright, “Pride’s many volunteers and its community ambassadors are standing up. The workforce volunteers and ambassadors make Pride what it is. We can’t, and won’t, work for an organization that is misallocating funds for the personal benefit of the Board. We can’t, and won’t, continue to fundraise without knowing if money is going to Pride or of it will pad the pockets of board members. The entire Board must resign and those who have been terminated or who have resigned as a result of their decision to misallocate funds to Dr. Princetta must be reinstated.”

In a joint statement, a number of former and older-generation Board members also called for the resignation of Princetta, Karim, and Worrell, but did not ask for the reinstatement of staff.

Pride Equality Torch Relay coordinator Ricky Cervantes stood on behalf of Pride’s volunteers, wanting to know why.

“Our only function here today is to deal with the Board as it is today,” said former Co-Chair Judi Scheim.

Pride volunteer Shaun Chamberlin spoke next, asking for a show of hands to indicate the desire of those assembled to have deHarte, St. Pierre, and Redondo reinstated. 72 voted in approval, 50 voted against, and 10 people abstained.

But it wasn’t just staff reinstatement that was on the minds of the crowd.

Other former Board members expressed disapproval in Pride’s acquisition of a new building (the purchase allowed Pride a documented 40% monthly reduction to operating costs), and felt the non-profit should not be engaging in fundraising activities, despite these actions having resulted in the distribution of $93,983 in grant funding, community outreach, membership support, ticket donations, partnership programs and parade scholarships in 2009.

“Pride is not supposed to be fundraising,” said former Board member Larry Baza. “Pride should not be competing with women, AIDS organizations, or The Center.”

Some in attendance at the meeting called for an altogether boycott of the parade and festival. Others called for the pulling of financial plugs.

“The Board was shameful in their actions, violated their fiscal duties and violated the trust of the community,” said local business owner Nick Moede. “As a business owner, in the past year [my business] donated approximately $10k in contributions to Pride, and as long as the Board stays we will not support Pride any longer. Without community contributions this organization can’t survive. Without volunteers it can’t survive. The Board has to go.”

Former Board Chair Brian Bazanette indicated he had met with Princetta and the Board several times during the week, and that they are actively interviewing candidates for the 17 open Board positions.

SDGLN today requested the names of those being considered by the Board, but Princetta declined to comment. He did, however, affirm the Board’s desire to reach a 40% Board gender parity, as required by Pride’s bylaws.

“We have always tried to do that,” said Princetta. “We are in the process of interviewing multiple candidates.”

Those interested in serving on the interim Board are encouraged to email Carl Worrell, Board Secretary at livinmydrm@aol.com to request an application. Director responsibilities are listed on line.