If Pride's board isn't monitoring finances, fundraising, or providing governance, what exactly is it doing? A number of former board members said their primary responsibility was to "represent the community." For an organization with roots in the gay liberation movement that has morphed into a massive, corporate-sponsored fiesta, this is not a misplaced concern — someone's gotta keep it real. But in Pride's case, this led to the deification of diversity and a fervent drive to include and cater to every imaginable delineation of the community, save one — people who can do math.

"When they put the board together, the priorities are really about diversity — are there enough people of color? Is every single community represented?" says Cecilia Chung, a former board chair and member from 1998 to 2005. "To professionalize the board is not one of the priorities. Looking for specific skill sets around financial literacy and the ability to read budgets — those might not be some of the things they consider." Adds Nikki Calma, a 10-year board member who resigned in frustration as cochair in March — she cited health concerns — "The board plays a big role in bringing in diversity. But also an aspect I think was overlooked is, you've got to run an organization here. You want to make sure you're in compliance with all the different rules and regulations and make sure you don't go into the red."

In recent years, it seems, no one was doing this. The aforementioned unbalanced budget is a stark example of mismanagement at multiple levels. André told the board that, rather than budgeting properly, Pride could just raise more funds, or tap its reserves. And the board bought it. Planning, ahead of time, to drain the reserves is deeply problematic. And to base even a balanced budget on aggressive fundraising goals is risky. But to do so with an unbalanced budget? "That's absolutely irresponsible," longtime nonprofit consultant Ken Goldstein says. "These are bad economic times, and even organizations that do good planning have been caught short. Clearly, when you don't plan at all and don't have a balanced budget to start with, you're not going to make up for it by luck."

Pride’s interim executive director, Brendan Behan, says obituaries for the organization are premature.
Jean-Philippe Dobrin
Pride’s interim executive director, Brendan Behan, says obituaries for the organization are premature.
Mikayla Connell counts her years 
atop Pride’s board as one of her life’s great failures.
Jean-Philippe Dobrin
Mikayla Connell counts her years atop Pride’s board as one of her life’s great failures.

In recent years, however, former board members Calma, Connell, and Joshua Hardwick admit the board had grown entirely passive when it came to Pride's finances. They say they accepted as gospel the numbers delivered by prior executive director Lindsey Jones, and continued to do so with André. "We were told we were fine," Calma recalls. And no one saw fit to delve further into the spreadsheets to back that up. In good times, and with an able executive like Jones, the board could get away with this level of fiscal absenteeism. Last year it was lethal.

Even on the best of days, however, it'd be hard to describe Pride's board as a well-oiled machine. The organization, to its credit, stocks itself with representatives of every last disparate corner of the LGBT community. It then insists on board unanimity in decisionmaking. Like the United Nations Security Council, one thumbs-down is enough to kill a proposal. Pride's consensus model can lead to months-long, contentious debates — even if no decision is made. The board spent so long debating a proper reaction to the passage of Proposition 8, recall past members, that other groups had already staged protests or taken the lead on the issue and Pride was passed by. Pride's consensus model empowers its most reactionary and recalcitrant members. Controversial proposals — such as imposing term limits on the board or addressing the controller's concerns — are essentially rendered nonstarters.

André resigned in October, just a year into her tenure. She did not return messages, but did describe her brief, tumultuous ride as "a tremendous learning experience" to the Chronicle. Connell — who oversaw a board that neglected both its finances and its fledgling executive — is less euphemistic. "I fucked up," she says. "I could put some of the blame on the economy and some on Amy André. But, no doubt about it: I fucked up. That's my legacy."


Just when things couldn't get worse for Pride — they didn't. When Randolph, along with board members Belinda Ryan and Jamie Fountain, all quit over a tumultuous late April weekend, we found out what it takes to forge "consensus" — existential crisis. The depleted board, over the course of three days, hired former deputy director Brendan Behan to be the interim executive director through the end of the year (he'll oversee a pared-down staff of three, including himself, and earn $65,000 for at least eight months' work). "Brendan's coming in is the best news I've heard in a year," former longtime board chair Joey Cain says.

Behan, a Pride staffer between 2006 and 2009, is a familiar face for event sponsors. "Most of them are actually very happy to know we're ready to talk with them honestly," he says. "The vast majority are coming back." Far from the absentee fiscal oversight that was the recent calling card of Pride, Behan will be scouring the finances obsessively — and, he promises, posting updates on Pride's blog. Businessman Bill Hemminger — who unapologetically says he intends to "run Pride like a business" — came aboard last month as treasurer. Also joining up was Lord Martine, a marketing professional who works in the liquor industry and ought to be able to help land his share of sponsorships. On paper, you couldn't ask for better pedigrees for incoming leaders.

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16 comments
Si Se Puede Deportar
Si Se Puede Deportar

Hilarious if it weren't for the fact that the taxpayers will be ponying up to keep the inept and corrupt "organization" going "for the community". Perhaps public floggings of prominent public figures could be auctioned off to raise funds? After all SF is known for out in the open BDSM.

Thom Lynch
Thom Lynch

All of this is so sad and at one time unavoidable. Many people met with the board before they hired Amy and suggested a major overall of the board was required and that the membership structure should be revisited. Spending had to be reduced, having 26 stages to place everyone is ludicrous. This was widely known by non-profit exports who knew the LGBT groups in town and their problems too. But pride stood out as one of the worst and didn't listen to anyone until it just too late.

Dp1965nj
Dp1965nj

HA HA! In Pride We Trust

Jward
Jward

i dunno. i have little faith, and there's more to be done than one woman/man can do alone. merging with another organization = get a clean slate. if this organization tried to do more than give a short parade and flaunt corporate sponsors, cocks and boobs, then maybe i'd be more enthusiastic. where is the contribution to humanitarian causes? what about us gay families with kids? what about poz people? sure, let's party and have a parade. but let's also do some GOOD for the community rather than just wreak havoc.

Sanfranguns
Sanfranguns

OK, so Marc has obviously never been to a pride celebration. Anyone with a real comment?

Sanfranguns
Sanfranguns

Can we please stop calling this an Economy issue? Do you know that people have given MORE money since the country's fiscal crisis started. I work for a non-profit and yeah, its maybe harder to find money - but there's still money to be had. Pride's mis-management and derelict board is what caused all this. Nothing more

Marc
Marc

San Franciscans, especially LGBTQ ones, don't deserve this celebration. You've done nothing to be prideful of for at least the past seven years. It's become a reason to drink and drug and nothing more and it is quite clear you don't have a clue how to bring in money for anything except personal coffers. And don't even get me started on sponsorship by companies such as Clear Channel. Shame on you.

dariamilan
dariamilan

what the article fails to include is that Amy Andre did have financial training in the MBA for Berkeley that she got after the Point Foundation paid for it. Ms. Andre is excellent at taking money from others but seems woefully lacking in paying it forward even when she is getting a paycheck to do just that. The fact that board members are able to take responsibility but she just brushes it off as a "learning experience" is truly sad. She withheld info from the board and the public and has never taken responsibility for it. All after getting her MBA paid for with the promise to serve her community.

thixotropic
thixotropic

My first impulse was "Government money?!? No way in hell!" But the city does get tax revenue from it, and Pride has the benefit, in lean times, of reliably putting of plenty of money in the hands of local merchants. A million people with an above average income spending it is worth 160K in debt.

But fiscal and organisational changes are paramount. Those of the current crew responsible should be held accountable, and competent people must be engaged to replace them.

garrett
garrett

We are going thur a bad time folks, things are shutting down, stores are closing and people are losing homes. Non-profits are having to cut back, less money nowadays. If Folsom is doing well change the model to them. As for getting public money, Why.

MissMimsey
MissMimsey

Lord hep me Jesus.

David Campos says you have to fish or cut bait.

The dam ting MUST be a total mess.

MPetrelis
MPetrelis

kudos to joe eskenazi for a comprehensive, fair and balanced look at the mess known as SF Pride. he did a fabulous job of giving some of the tortured history of the board and most recent executive director, and also acknowledging the extensive reporting of the bay area reporter.

i have one big question after reading joe's piece, and i say this as someone who avoids the pride parade and festival at civic center: what is the gay political point of the damn parade and party on the last sunday of june?

____
____

Pride comes before a fall.

Maria
Maria

Wow. Excellent report (though a dubious title).

What I find especially frustrating is that in the relatively close-knit core of gay people who've lived in the city for decades and know all the players and have a nose for trouble, this narrative has been known for years.

We all winced with every new pronouncement emanating from the Pride org about an ever more edge-case focus on politics and buzz-words and ever dwindling accountability and financial health. Its been going on for years.

In this city, large non-profits are enabled to operate without accountability, to spend tax dollars with out any meaningful tracking of outcomes vs. promises, and in the end we all lose -- except of course the non-profit executives who pocket fat salaries.

Marc
Marc

Really? I'm curious as to what you base your assumption on?

You're quite wrong by the way. I've been a volunteer for SF Pride even but please enlighten me as to why you make that statement.

Sanfranguns
Sanfranguns

If all you've seen at a pride celebration are people getting drunk and high then you've either not been there or you're an idiot. I was being kind

 
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