Andre quits SF Pride
by Seth Hemmelgarn
Amy Andre, the embattled executive director of the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee, has resigned.
Board President Mikayla Connell also announced her resignation from Pride's governing body, effective immediately.
Andre and Connell's decisions to leave come after months of both women being defensive over Pride's crumbling finances. The two leave the organization with a deficit for this year that could be as much as $150,000.
That figure includes an estimated $55,000 to $60,000 that is owed to beverage partners from this year's event.
Connell, who had previously expressed a desire to resign, has been board president for four years. Her term as president expired Tuesday night, and she had decided not to run again. She's also resigned from the board altogether, she said in an e-mail exchange with the Bay Area Reporter .
Andre, who started as executive director last October, did not respond to requests for comment. The effective date for her resignation wasn't immediately confirmed.
Shawn Parker and Nikki Calma are the board's new co-chairs.
Parker wrote in an e-mail that Andre sent her resignation to the board Sunday, October 10. Calma, who has been board vice president for four years, didn't respond to requests for comment.
Each June, the Pride Parade and festival draw hundreds of thousands of people to the city's streets. The organization has granted more than $1.6 million dollars since 1997 to its beneficiaries under the community partner program.
This year saw controversy as beverage partners, typically community organizations who provide volunteers to work drink booths at the event in exchange for a portion of the revenue, received a letter saying that because of an "accounting error," their cut of proceeds was less than anticipated. Several organizations received thousands of dollars less than they had expected.
Early on in what she called the "beverage partner payment scandal," Connell placed blame on former deputy director Brendan Behan. However, she recently publicly apologized to Behan in an e-mail that was widely circulated and that she sent to the B.A.R. But in that same e-mail, Connell attributed the error to a "miscommunication" between Andre and Jim Gong, Pride's longtime bookkeeper.
Connell later clarified that the responsibility for the scandal rests with Andre and the board.
Last week, she estimated that the amount owed to beverage partners is between $55,000 and $60,000, although she cautioned that was not a specific dollar figure.
In an e-mail to the B.A.R. on Tuesday, Connell discussed her departure.
"The job of president has been requiring an enormous amount of my time," she wrote. "Over the last few weeks I have had to take numerous vacation days off from my day job to run investigations and handle the various problems which have arisen, and I cannot continue to do that. I have given as much of myself to Pride's presidency as I could afford, and then some, but I cannot continue to do so."
She also wrote that she has "every confidence" Calma and Parker "will lead Pride's recovery from a difficult year."
Some in the community had already called for Andre's resignation.
Supervisors offering help
San Francisco's two openly gay supervisors are offering their help to the board.
Supervisor Bevan Dufty said that he and Supervisor David Campos "will be stepping forward and offering to help Pride balance their financial situation and restore community trust."
Dufty said they're offering to be directly involved with fundraising "so that community partners can be paid, and we can build for a strong 2011 Pride." He also said they want to continue efforts toward "open and transparent management and governance."
"Pride is a very important institution in our city, and I really ask for the community's input and support," said Dufty.
One area that's been key to Pride's finances has been corporate sponsorship.
"I need to look at who already has signed up and see where we can grow support," said Dufty, who's previously met with Eddie Valtierra, Pride's recently hired director of sponsorship.
Asked about corporate sponsors being scared off by the financial shape that Pride's in, Dufty said, "If I take on this task, it's going to be putting my name out there, and I think that's why this is not an offer I'm making lightly." Dufty, whose term is up next month and is running for mayor, noted that he's stepping in during his last couple months as supervisor.
Connell said at last week's board meeting that Pride has not seen a drop in corporate sponsors as a result of the financial problems related to the beverage partner snafu.
Campos said the role he and Dufty play in fundraising and recruiting a new executive director depend partly "on what the existing board would like us to do," and whether they believe the two elected officials getting involved is appropriate.
"More than anything else right now, there has to be transparency moving forward," said Campos. "... Without transparency, there's not going to be the level of trust that is needed."
Both also said they would like to see the Pride board be more involved in fundraising.
"The board needs to be actively involved," said Dufty. "It's not clear to me everyone on the board has taken responsibility to raise funds for Pride. ... There has to be some discussion about it. For most organizations, being on the board is governance and raising support."