Pride missteps continue
by James Patterson
The missteps, mistakes, and miscommunications that plagued the San Francisco Pride board of directors in the past three months do not appear to have abated in the days following a successful Pride parade as abrupt decisions have led to further community tensions.
The latest snafu from the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee took place Monday, July 8 when an email to members announced the abrupt cancellation of a regular membership meeting set for Tuesday, July 9.
While Pride staff apologized for the short notice, it offered no explanation beyond "finalizing 2013 SF Pride programmatic and financial reports."
In closing, SF Pride informed members the next scheduled meeting would be Tuesday, August 13.
Community members have been closely following SF Pride's actions due to lingering concerns over its handling of the Bradley Manning grand marshal controversy, when the gay Army private was selected and then disinvited from serving as a community grand marshal. (Manning is facing a court-martial over giving hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks.)
Former Pride board member Joey Cain, an increasingly vocal critic of Pride's governance, immediately fired off an email questioning the meeting cancellation, saying that it was not in keeping with the organization's bylaws.
"What about the nominations for the board of directors that the corporation's bylaws requires to be opened at the July general planning meeting?" Cain asked in an email to Pride officials, a copy of which he provided to the Bay Area Reporter.
According to Pride's bylaws, the nominations for directors are opened at the July meeting and close at the August meeting.
In another email, Cain cited the bylaws and informed Pride that its cancellations of required meetings were "violations" of the governance requirement.
"As a member of San Francisco Pride Committee I need to point out to you that the canceling of the membership/general planning meeting for July 9 as well as the canceling/postponing of the membership/general planning meeting in May are violations of the corporation's bylaws," Cain wrote.
Article 5, Section 3 of Pride's Bylaws, provided to the B.A.R. by Cain, states: "Regular meetings shall take place on the dates and times set by annual calendar, recommended by the board and ratified by the membership at its annual meeting."
According to Cain, once meetings are set by membership vote, the board does not have the authority to overrule membership and cancel meetings.
The B.A.R., in an email, asked SF Pride CEO Earl Plante to confirm he did not have the authority to cancel a scheduled meeting without being in violation of Pride's governing rules.
At 2 p.m. July 9, Plante answered, in a way, with a short email: "We are rescheduling [the July] meeting until next Tuesday." He did not directly address the bylaws issues.
In a subsequent email to members announcing the July 16 meeting, Plante said a statement would be forthcoming but none was issued by press time.
Another SF Pride member concerned about the organization's governance is gay attorney David Waggoner. Late July 8, he sent SF Pride and the B.A.R. an email with what he described as "three formal requests."
In his first request, Waggoner cited Article 5, section 3, the same Cain cited, of SF Pride's Bylaws. "[N]either the board nor the CEO has the authority to cancel a membership meeting," Waggoner wrote.
"Accordingly, I respectfully request that you immediately rescind the invalid cancellation of the July 9 membership meeting and notify all members that the meeting will be held as scheduled," Waggoner wrote.
Waggoner asked SF Pride to provide him "with a copy of SF Pride's membership list, as of today's date, as soon as possible for the purpose of communicating with other members about membership meetings and SF Pride business."
Though Waggoner cited SF Pride bylaws and sections of the California Corporations Code as allowing him access to membership information, Plante said that Pride has privacy concerns and its attorney is looking into the request.
Finally, Waggoner requested "to inspect the accounting books, records, and minutes of proceedings of the members, the board and committees of the board, pursuant to California Corporations Code section 6333, for all SF Pride business in the year 2013."
In another dramatic development, also reportedly related to SF Pride's Manning controversy, the B.A.R. learned that longtime Pride attorney Brooke Oliver has resigned.
Cain attributed Oliver's resignation to Pride's handling of the Manning matter. Oliver herself has been out of town and was unavailable for comment. A photo taken of her at the June 30 Pride parade showed her marching with the Manning contingent.
In a July 9 email, Plante said, "Brooke Oliver is no longer our counsel, effective June 15, 2013. All of us at SF Pride wish her the best and thank her for 15 years of service to SF Pride."
He declined to elaborate further, citing attorney-client privilege, but did say that Pride's interim attorney is Julius Turman, a gay man who also serves on the San Francisco Police Commission.
In a telephone call, Turman declined to comment on his position as counsel to SF Pride.
"I would suggest you have that conversation with SF Pride directly," he said.
In addition to the July 16 membership meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. at the Pride office, 1841 Market Street, Pride is planning a volunteer and member appreciation party for Saturday, July 20 at 2 p.m. at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center, 1800 Market Street.