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San Diego Pride Board of Directors: We have no intention of resigning

In an open letter to the community sent out at 10 p.m., January 5, the San Diego Pride Board of Directors apologized to the community “Wholeheartedly for its indiscretion by providing a onetime only stipend to its chair, Philip Princetta in early October 2009.”

Although the organization’s bylaws expressly prohibit a board member from being compensated, the board voted to waive the bylaws so as to allow payment.

“The stipend in the amount of five thousand dollars was given of pure intention, lack of malfeasance and just plain ordinary love for an individual who has donated literally thousands of hours of his time and energy at the expense of his own business and personal life to this organization and the community it serves,” stated board members Princetta, Treasurer Mike Karim and Secretary Carl Worrell in the letter.

On January 4, Pride’s then Executive Director Ron deHarte sent an email to the board calling for their resignation due to their misuse of charitable funds. Less than 24 hours later, deHarte was terminated.

The board maintains deHarte’s dismissal has nothing to do with his protest of payment to Princetta, instead citing irreconcilable differences over the direction of the 36-year-old organization.

“Ron has had an enormous and positive influence on San Diego Pride’s growth and success, and has built a self-sustaining, capable staff,” said Princetta in a January 5 press release. “But there comes a point in history when change is necessary and the board felt that now was the time for that change.”

The timing of deHarte’s dismissal immediately became suspect, prompting San Diego Pride’s Director of Development, Ken St. Pierre and San Diego Pride’s Production Assistant, Jeffrey Redondo to resign citing a loss of confidence in the organization’s current leadership.

Since that time, a number of community activists including Pride founder Nicole Murray-Ramirez and former Pride board members have called for the current board’s resignation.

“I think at this stage, because of how this was handled, the only solution is for the Board to resign. They’ve misused community funds. It’s that simple,” said former San Diego Pride Co-Chair Anne Hewitt.

Local restaurateur and former Pride board member Chris Shaw has offered to step up and serve as an interim board member until Pride 2010.

“Pride, for our community, is one of the biggest events. Not just for the gay community, but for all of San Diego," asserted Shaw. "It’s the largest civic event in the City. It’s also one of the top Pride celebrations in the country. It’s imperative that the event continue.

“I agree that board members should not take any kind of cash payments for their service. It’s a total conflict of interest. Monetary compensation to a board member is just not right.”

According to a January 6 report by GLTNewsNow.com, in addition to approving the $5,000 payment to Princetta, in the past year the board has also approved more than $12,000 in bonuses to paid staff members.

Murray-Ramirez feels the granting of bonuses during a time that is being described by mainstream media as the Great Recession was flagrantly irresponsible. Instead, he stated, the money should have been given to local charities, many of whom are feeling a financial pinch due to decreased donations and lesser grant funding.

The bylaws do, however, permit bonuses be paid to staff members based on meeting and exceeding performance and fundraising goals.

Princetta, Karim and Worrell disagree with the community’s demands.

“The Board of Directors of San Diego Pride has no intention of resigning,” they wrote. “ Instead, we are going to apologize to our community and ask them to open their hearts to forgiveness.

“Ninety-nine percent of what this community has read so far on the issue is inaccurate and based on pure spin. It is a plan to remove the current governing body of this organization and 'take it over,' plain and simple.”

A community Town Hall Meeting to discuss the removal of the current leadership is being held on Sunday, January 10 at 6 p.m. at the San Diego LBGT Community Center.