It’s been a rough year for SF Pride. The worldwide controversial decision naming Wikileaks whistleblower, Chelsea (Bradley) Manning as Pride Grand Marshal invite/disinvite debacle-followed extensively here on the Biscuit-has left them battered and under pressure to reform many of it’s practices, to be more transparent, and responsive to the community. Suddenly on Friday, Sept 6th, they announced that the captain of this careening ship, CEO, Earl Plante, has resigned effective immediately.
In a statement released to the press, the Pride board said this was a ‘mutually agreed upon’ decision reached collectively between themselves and Mr. Plante.
In truth it’s the result of caustic email Mr. Plante sent to Jesse Oliver Sanford, a community activist seeking one of the ten open seats up for election at SF Pride, that steps way over the line of normal decorum and teeters on the edge of blackmail.
On Wednesday, Ferrin, one of our followers, tipped the Biscuit Mr. Sanford had received a highly inappropriate email from Mr. Plante and that we should investigate. Mr. Sanford reached out to us directly later that afternoon to tell his story along with other City community media outlets, SF Weekly, SF Bay Guardian and Bay Area Reporter, as well as posting the info publicly on Facebook on multiple pages including SF Prides.
On Aug. 28th he found an email from Mr. Plante in his inbox threatening him with arrest if he didn’t withdraw his name from consideration for the Board. In it Mr. Plante claimed Mr. Sanford had assaulted him during a canceled Board meeting revolving around the Manning issue, and if he didn’t comply, he would file a police report seeking his arrest. The email, in it’s entirety is below:
From: Earl Plante <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: RE: Letter of IntentDate: August 28, 2013 1:17:35 PM PDT
To: “email@example.com” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Reply-To: Earl Plante <EarlP@sfpride.org>
You will need to resign from board consideration by 5pm thursday or i will be forced to go to police informing them that you assaulted me earlier this year.Current board members also have already been informed and all were shocked that you were considering running after what you did….Sent from my Galaxy S®III
Mr. Sanford vehemently denies such an event took place and has multiple witnesses to support his statement. He was completely gob smacked by the email and consulted trusted confidants on how to proceed. In the end he issued this statement in response:
It appears Earl has chosen to claim I assaulted him at the demonstration outside Pride’s members’ meeting on May 7, which the board cancelled after it was supposed to start. While I was part of the demonstration, I was in the second or third rank of people on the sidewalk when the crowd surged forward past the door. I never touched Earl. As a lifelong activist, I have attended many trainings in nonviolent civil disobedience and I was very careful not to come into physical contact with him in any way.
Besides the obvious fact that it reads like blackmail, his ultimatum raises a serious question: how can this man administer an election process, as the policies and procedures suggest is the Executive Director’s role, when he is trying to influence the outcome by threatening a candidate unless that candidate withdraws? Moreover, how can he be CEO of San Francisco Pride when he acts in such an unhinged way?
Mr. Sanford has also acknowledged the fact Mr. Plante is a fantastic corporate fundraiser. This years Pride celebration, despite all the drama, ended in the black with a surplus of money to give to charitable community partners and a prudent reserve for the organization itself. Sadly Mr. Plante’s interpersonal community outreach skills seem to lack this fundraising savant.
With Plante’s exit Pride board President Lisa Williams has taken a leave from the Board and is serving as interim CEO. Davace Chin is now board chair even though he had stated earlier that he’d be resigning.
Ms. Williams is not without her own baggage as she has stirred the pot on multiple occasions especially with the infamous Manning disinvite press statement released at the end of April that whipped community activists into a frenzy.
Additionally Gay Supervisors David Campos and the Castro’s own Scott Wiener are encouraging SF Pride to work with the community more closely, behave in a more timely and responsive manner and encouraging the non-profit to work toward a process of inclusion and transparency versus the secrecy and often confusing reversals of the last year. Adhereing to it’s own rules, regulations and edicts will be a great place to start.
The next General Meeting of the SF Pride Committee will take place on September15th to fill 10 vacancies. 700 Members are expected to vote on who will fill these roles. Many community activists besides Mr. Sanford are vying for them to help make real changes occur within the SF Pride structure including Joey Cain, former Board President, who nominated Manning as Grand Marshal in the first place. Let’s hope that this insertion of new blood into the existing structure will start to move the non-profit in a direction away from all the controversy and that all the community can fully support.