Behan to leave SF Pride
by Seth Hemmelgarn
After working for months to solidify the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee's finances, interim director Brendan Behan plans to leave the organization at the end of the year.
The news comes as the Pride Committee distributed nearly $169,000 to its community partners Tuesday, August 16, a remarkable turnaround from a year ago, when beverage partners initially received only a fraction of what they were owed.
As Behan's title indicates, it's been known since he was hired in April that the job would end in months. He said then that he would be with the organization through the end of the year.
But rather than leave open the possibility of filling the director's job permanently, it now seems Behan really will be leaving.
"No. Right now, the plan is no," Behan said Tuesday, when asked whether he would stay past December.
Behan's return to Pride followed months of turmoil at the organization. He filled the top post that had been vacant since former Executive Director Amy Andre left in November 2010, just over a year after she started the job.
Soon after last year's celebration, several community partners complained that Pride had shortchanged them. In December, the city controller's office revealed that the nonprofit was $225,000 in debt.
Things have improved since then.
Behan said that this year's scores of community partners would receive full payments totaling almost $169,000. Those checks were handed out at a party Tuesday. Final payments to nonprofits that worked with Pride to put on last year's event were made just before this year's celebration.
In addition, Behan said that the organization has almost completely paid off its 2010 debt.
With all the progress that's been made, his imminent departure could raise some concern.
But Behan said, "This was always envisioned as an interim ED position, and as such, it has a termination point."
Asked if he wanted to stay, he couldn't simply answer yes or no.
"It's hard when I've been through so many events and been with Pride and care so much about it to want to break away," said Behan, who once served as Pride's deputy director but left before the turmoil of the last year.
"It's the reason I came back after leaving. I always want to stay involved in supporting the organization" in some way, he said. However, he said, he has "a myriad of personal and professional factors to take into consideration, so it's not such a simple question to decide."
Behan, whose salary is $65,000, said that nobody asked him to leave, but no one's asked him to stay, either. However, he said, the weeks since this year's celebration ended have been "very busy" with tasks such as wrapping up the budget for this year, which was $1.7 million.
He said the board would need to decide the start of the search for his replacement.
As far as people being concerned about him leaving, and whether he was confident the board would find someone capable of leading the organization, Behan noted the board's almost entirely different from the one that selected Andre, who appeared to have trouble managing the organization.
Several people have joined the board since 2010, but two members who've been on the board for several years remain: current Chair Lisa Williams and Joshua Smith.
Behan said Williams "has really shown that she's battle tested, and that she can help lead the board, and I have 100 percent confidence that however the board decides to approach whatever transition they foresee, that they're amply prepared to take into consideration all the lessons of the past."
Despite multiple attempts to interview Williams, she did not provide comment for this article.
The Bay Area Reporter emailed a request for comment for this story to Smith. He responded with a message that said, "I have forwarded your query to [Williams], who is our spokesperson."
Financially, the Pride Committee has come a long way in recent months.
Behan said that he just signed one of the final checks related to Pride's 2010 debt, and the second would be paid before the end of the month. One payment is to a vendor and the other is for the city's Recreation and Park Department. He estimated the amounts totaled about $40,000.
In his report for the board dated August 2, a copy of which Behan provided, he said the committee is projecting a "modest net profit for the 2011 fiscal year." Behan told the B.A.R. he couldn't yet say what the precise figure would be, since budget reconciliation is continuing through the end of September.
Some financial figures from this year's Pride weren't as good.
Behan said in his report that income for beverage sales had been recorded at about $527,000, a drop of approximately $26,000 from 2010.
One reason for the decrease could be increased charges for drinks at the festival. Behan said prices for certain types of beer, water, and soda went up $1.
He told the B.A.R. that Pride officials were still looking into the decrease. He said sales "vary from year to year," and there could be a "multitude of factors."
For example, he pointed to competition from stores that surround the event site.
Beverage manager Andy Copperhall said Tuesday that he'd warned against the price increases, which he said were the board's decision.
"It was brought up at least three or four times over the year," Copperhall said. "... And I said, 'Don't do it. It's stupid.'"
He said it's "very clear" the price increases hurt sales.
Pride fared better in terms of donations at the gate. Behan said in his report that that income category was recorded at over $134,000, surpassing the budgeted amount of $113,000.
Just before Behan's return to Pride was announced this year, some, including out gay Supervisor Scott Wiener, had talked to the B.A.R. about the idea of the nonprofit merging with another organization.
Asked Tuesday about Behan leaving Pride, Wiener said, "I think Brendan did a terrific job, and it would be great for him to stay on, and I hope that he will. It's really important for Pride to have consistent, strong leadership."
As far as Pride merging with anyone, Wiener said, "I think we need to have a frank discussion about the future of Pride." Whether that means the nonprofit remains a separate entity or combines with another group, "We need to make the decision about what's going to be best for Pride and best for the community," he said.
Asked whether Pride has any intention of disbanding or merging with another agency, Behan said, "No. I think it's pretty clear we had an anomalous year last year," and officials worked hard to come out of it.
He noted that Pride is going into its 42nd year and said, "There's a reason San Francisco Pride has been around for so long. In good times and in bad, we never forgot that ultimately it's the community that we serve."