Although the question remains as to why Stephen Whitburn was dismissed, protesters want Board members to resign immediately.
In a recent article San Diego Gay and Lesbian News (SDGLN) broke the story that Executive Director Stephen Whitburn was relieved of his position as head of the organization, but the question still remains, Why?
When we got word that he wasn’t going to be with Pride anymore, we immediately reached out to the Pride organization about their apparent precipitant decision, but nobody returned our emails.
We finally got a statement from Pride yesterday after we reached out again, and this is what they had to say:
"Stephen Whitburn was a beloved member of the Pride family, but we have parted ways at this time.
San Diego Pride has a professional staff, remarkable volunteers, and a dedicated board who are continuing to work on our year-round programs, and create an exceptional Pride 2017.
Pride 2016 was a record-breaking year, and we will announcing our community grant cycle in the next month." - San Diego Pride"
Although it is finally confirmation that they have let Whitburn go, it still doesn’t address their reasons: they even boast in their statement that this year's Pride under Whitburn's watch, "was a record-breaking" year.
They may have to answer to the community on Wednesday at their monthly public Pride meeting. Some community members want Whitburn re-instated, or the Board's resignation, or both.
Former Board member Will Rodriguez-Kennedy tells SDGLN that he, along with volunteer leaders, former board members, and community members will be at the meeting Wednesday night and will address nine grievances to the Board, first and foremost the dismissal of Stephen Whitburn.
Rodriguez-Kennedy went on Facebook on Monday attacking the Pride Board's recent actions.
“This Board, who has failed to operate in transparent manner, who has not posted minutes in over a year has made this decision with limited community input.” He wrote.
“This Board has deviated from the commitments of previous boards to our community. They disbanded the community advisory council, failed to post minutes and have not engaged in the community it has committed to serve.”
According to Rodriguez-Kennedy, last week, Pride's festival manager, parade manager and medical directors dissatisfied with the Board’s attitudes, tried to address the situation with them, but, “the co-chair treated them sternly and would not allow them to speak.”
San Diego Gay and lesbian News reached out to one member who was at that meeting, Medical Director of Pride, Joseph Smith, and he confirms that the Board tried to shuffle them out without audience.
Smith says when co-chair Bianca Burt got wind of his presence, she initially said they love public comment, but Smith felt she was being insincere because before she entered the room she said, “I’ll take care of that.”
He says they didn’t give him a chance to speak, even though they were waiting for fifteen minutes on the Treasurer to arrive who, according to Smith, was late.
It is this dismissive attitude that has former members and current members concerned about how the Board is dealing with the community, their staff and their money.
“That work culture is constantly in fear,” said Smith, and shows, “Blatant disrespect for staff and volunteers.”
Another contention is that the Board is not allowing Fernando Lopez to step in as interim Executive Director, instead they are going through an agency to find a replacement.
Smith is also concerned with the Board’s past conduct with its staff. He claims that there was an instance of sexual assault and members shouting at visitors who don't address them in a certain way, “Don’t you know who I am?!”
The plan at Wednesday’s meeting is to have Board members sign their resignations which the protestors have already written up and will present to them.
They are asking co-chair Bianca Burt (pictured L. top), Board and Diversity Development Chair Nenette Agulto (pictured L. middle), Treasurer Matthew Verdeflor (pictures L. bottom), Secretary Jaime Carillo, and Board member Phyllis Jackson to step down.
If they choose not to sign the resignation, Smith says they have another plan in place.
If they do sign, former board members would take over.
Whatever the outcome at Wednesday's meeting a definite pall has been cast over the organization despite the successful 2016 year.
Smith says that it's not just Whitburn's dismissal they are trying to correct, but getting back the feeling of being in a "Pride family."
We asked him if he was nervous about the impending confrontation with the Pride Board.
"Not at all," he said. "It's always great when the community comes together to support an organization which does so much good."
UPDATE: The public meeting will be held at the Pride offices at 6 pm on Wednesday, Sept. 21.
The Pride office is located at 3620 30th Street San Diego, 92103