SF Pride thanks
volunteers with party
by James Patterson
Even as the San Francisco Pride board of directors celebrated and thanked volunteers and members for a successful Pride festival and parade, questions on governance and the continued absence of CEO Earle Plante from board meetings and community events arose during the annual volunteer and membership appreciation party last weekend.
Held Saturday, July 20 in the Rainbow Room of the LGBT Community Center, volunteers and members were greeted not by smiling and appreciative Pride board members but by past board president Joey Cain, who distributed fliers announcing a group called SF Pride Members for Democracy, Accountability and Transparency.
According to Cain, the group, which currently has about 30 members, will work to ensure the board of directors will be accountable to the members, the board's decision making will reflect the highest standards and practices of transparency and open governance, and the board will govern in accordance with its bylaws, policies, and procedures.
The group is necessary, according to Cain, "due to ongoing problems and issues with the way the leadership of Pride has been handling the affairs of the organization."
The flier covered six recent issues of poor governance, including rescheduling of required meetings with no explanation, a burdensome membership application process, and the board's complete lack of knowledge of basic metrics such as the current number of open board seats that will be up for election in September.
The group also noted an issue that won't go away. "The terrible handling of the whole Bradley Manning affair ... [was] so badly handled by Pride ... that it created and inflamed community divisiveness and brought international shame on the organization," the flier stated.
Manning, the gay Army private currently in a court-martial in Maryland for leaking classified government documents, was named a community grand marshal but that honor was rescinded by the board two days later.
Whether SF Pride board members knowingly violated the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee's bylaws to announce, then rescind, Manning's grand marshal honor may be debated for the foreseeable future.
An additional point of concern for the new group was the presence of National Guard recruiters at the Pride festival. The group is concerned because the guard and the U.S. military "discriminate against transgender people." While gays and lesbians can now serve openly in the armed forces, transgender people cannot.
Cain also distributed a flier from the group titled "How Many SF Pride Board Member Seats Are Open?" Citing SF Pride's bylaws, the new accountability group informs readers "nine seats are up for election." It was not known at press time if SF Pride agreed with the group's calculation.
The volunteer appreciation party itself was a joyful occasion for attendees and board members. President Lisa Williams thanked everyone for helping to make Pride successful.
"We couldn't do it without you," she said.
Plante was absent and no explanation given. Questions immediately arose from members around several of the 11 tables as to Plante's whereabouts.
In addition to Williams, other board members who attended included Vice President Davace Chin, Secretary Lou Fisher, Treasurer David Currie, and Pam Grey, Shaun Harris, and Javarre Cordero Wilson.
The event included an assortment of donated foods and beverages, music, gift bags of leftover Pride items, fellowship, awards, and a raffle.
Volunteer Shemira Fermon of Antioch, who identifies as bisexual and owns a financial services business in Concord, said she volunteered at the VIP party at City Hall. "I ran my ass off," she said. She said the appreciation party was "awesome" and it was "nice to meet and to get to know fellow volunteers."
Her girlfriend Cire Harris agreed.
One of the first raffle prizes, a round trip flight on Virgin America for anywhere in the continental U.S., was won by straight San Francisco teacher Elizabeth Farrell, 22, who also volunteered at Pride's VIP party. Her gay mom was excited for her daughter.
"I didn't think I'd win anything but a free beer," Farrell said.
Lisa Quail shouted "Goodness!" when her ticket number was called for a prize of a week's stay for two in Cancun, valued at $4,900.
"I am going to enjoy this vacation," she said as she walked away with her prize.
Among the many awards distributed, Gene Bidwell received a Commitment Award for 13 years with SF Pride.
As the party drew to a close, John Caldera, a nominee for the board of directors, was overheard talking with Currie about Plante's continued no-show at board meetings and other events. "He is paid to attend to these meetings and he's not present. Not acceptable," Caldera told Currie.
Currie told the Bay Area Reporter that raffle prizes were donated by sponsors. He then gave the B.A.R. a "preliminary financial report," that had been requested by Caldera at the rescheduled July 16 SF Pride board meeting.
"We had a record year financially," Currie said. He mentioned no figures. "All our categories were up over the previous year. There is nothing we are trying to hide. All is good." He said he hoped he would be re-elected treasurer.
Out of the blue Currie added, "If you want to credit anybody for saving Pride, credit Lisa Williams."
Williams said she had been on the board seven years and president for three years.
"Across the board we had great success with Pride this year," Williams said.
Members interested in joining the accountability group can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.