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No “catfight” during meeting between elected officials and former Pride Board members

A blanket email signed “Deep Throat” was sent out to local LGBT media outlets on Jan 27. The sender, using the pseudonym return name “Len Feinberg” was distributing information in an effort to draw light to what he believed was the other side of the proverbial Pride story coin.

The facts, according to "Feinberg", relate to the Jan 23 meeting which took place at Senator Kehoe’s office. During the meeting she, Councilmember Todd Gloria and former Councilmember Toni Atkins requested Phillip Princetta, Carl Worrell, and Mike Karim to resign from Pride’s Board of directors.

“Kehoe was VERY belligerent and allowed no discussion,” wrote "Feinberg", accusing the Senator of screaming, making threats, and having been “a total dictator.”

“Todd Gloria sat in the corner like a 2-year old. According to former Pride Treasurer [Mike Karim], the severe bullying and constant threats by Kehoe throughout the meeting were over the top! She allowed for absolutely no discussion or dialogue. It was nothing but orders upon orders and one threat after the next.”

When SDGLN asked if "Deep Throat" had been in attendance at this meeting, he replied “Absolutely!” (SDGLN has since learned that the only people at the meeting were Pride Board members, Kehoe, Atkins and Gloria.)

Although we were unable to source background information for one “Len Feinberg” (a Myspace search of the email address pointed to an account owned by someone named “Marco;” a Facebook and reverse email search indicated the account to be owned by someone named “Mark." A local phone number was not listed), his allegations led to a number of questions within the community, namely, why did elected officials involve themselves in a matter over which they had no legal authority?

A Pride founder’s point of view

Pride founder Nicole Murray-Ramirez was one of the first people to lead the charge for political intervention.

“I believed the only way [Princetta, Karim and Worrell] were going to leave was by having a ‘come to Jesus’ talk so they’d get back in touch with reality,” said Murray-Ramirez. "So I called Councilmembers Todd Gloria and Carl DeMaio because I felt they were going to have the most impact.

“In my more than 40 years of activism, I have never seen such a unity within the LGBT community. The community wanted the Board to step down and they were refusing. It was almost as if they felt it was ‘their’ Pride. I felt the only way they’d actually listen to any of this was through hearing it from what I consider to be our respected leaders in public office.”

Murray-Ramirez is also among the list of people "Feinberg" blasted to the media.

“The main reason Nicole is upset with the Pride Board is because they refused to put her closest cronies on that Board,” wrote "Feinberg" on Friday, January 22. “She feels she can stick her noise into anything she feels like doing. She will make a deal with the devil in order to get her personal agenda fulfilled.”

Involvement of the City Council

Even before DeMaio was approached, the Pride situation had been on his radar. Since the day the story first broke, DeMaio’s concerns revolved around the potential financial impact it could have on City revenues.

With San Diego facing a $180 million dollar budget deficit and seeing the potential loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue, standing idly by was just not an option.

“Once it was clear that the embattled Board intended to stay and try to do Pride without community support, it became clear to me that elected officials had to intervene,” DeMaio told SDGLN. “For me this is not only a community issue, it is a fiscal and economic issue as Pride is our city’s largest civic event. Pride generates substantial tax revenue for the city and as an elected official, I could not sit idly by and see that event fail. That’s when I approached business leaders and sought their support for a unified letter, committing to withhold financial support unless the Board resigned – and when I asked [Councilman Gloria] to organize the elected officials in the same manner.”

Gloria, however, was reluctant to get involved.

“My preference was to let the community try to resolve this amongst themselves,” said Gloria. “But almost a month later, when a resolution was not in sight, it became clear that this signature event of our city and community was in danger. It was at that time I called Senator Kehoe and former Councilmember Toni Atkins. We chose to intervene, not because we had any controlling legal authority over Pride, but because we had a responsibility to convey the community’s wishes in the strongest possible terms.”

Although "Feinberg" made allegations regarding Kehoe and Gloria’s “takeover” of Pride’s hiring and expenditures, Gloria says this was not at all the case.

“That was absolutely not the request,” said Gloria. “[Senator Kehoe], Toni and I have no legal authority over Pride. What we did was convey some of the concerns we had from fellow community members who had strong questions, not just about the gratuity that was paid [to Princetta], but who had questions about some of the personnel decisions that were made. There was an enormous ethical cloud over the previous Board. It seemed wise for no major decisions to be made until a new Board could be appointed. We felt the interim Board should be making those decisions. It was not our expectation to be hiring anyone or to make those decisions ourselves.”

But were boundaries overstepped? Many think not.

“We elect people like Christine Kehoe, Toni Atkins, Todd Gloria to be leaders,” said Jess Durfee, San Diego Democratic Party Executive Chair. “They’re leaders for the entire community, but they’re very much the leaders of the LGBT community. I thought it was wonderful that they stepped up to the plate. Did they overstep their boundaries? Absolutely not. [Their intervention is] exactly what we needed.”

Moving forward

“The major challenge at this moment is the perception of the community and a lack of confidence in the Board and the Board’s decision-making process,” said Judi Schaim and Larry Ramey, Pride’s interim Co-chairs. “The new Board believes that by working with integrity, openness, and being thoughtful in our decision-making, confidence will be restored.

“The Board as it is presently reconstituted met for the first time last Wednesday, January 27, 2010, and confirmed its intention to implement recommendations from the town hall meeting to create a diverse Board, representative of all the communities of Pride, to be open and transparent in the conduct of the Board, including publishing Board meeting agenda and minutes on-line, keeping meetings open to the public, begin selecting accountants for the purpose of conducting a complete audit of the organization’s finances, establishing periodic town hall meetings, and to commit to fiscal responsibility.”

Schaim and Ramey affirmed a desire to select more permanent Board members as quickly as possible, and encouraged everyone interested in serving their community to make their interest known.

“We have made available application packets for anyone interested in serving on the Board, and Pride will connect with all of those who have recently expressed interest. The Board is committed to a back-to-basics approach, producing a rally, parade, and festival. Re-energizing the volunteer base is critical to Pride’s success. Finally, we, as a Board, are confident in our abilities and in our commitment to the organization and the community.”

Gloria feels that with a new interim Board, pride will now be able to get off to a fresh start.

“There’s no question that Pride is our city’s largest civic event,” said Gloria. “It brings a great number of visitors and a great number of residents out to District 3 who patronize businesses and enjoy a full long weekend in our community. We got involved not just because of financial reasons, but because [Pride] is our most visible event, our most popular event, and I tried to convey to the prior Board that [their resignations] were in the best interest of the 200,000 people who attend this event. To their credit, they stepped aside.”