The San Francisco Pride Committee, which has been in hot water for months due to bizarre decisions and lack of transparency, replaced a majority of its board with a slate of reformers during a long and contentious meeting Sunday, September 15.
A new group, SF Pride Members for Democracy, Accountability and Transparency, put forth a slate of seven candidates committed to making the organization more responsive to the grassroots LGBT community. The group was formed in the wake of the controversy that ensued this past spring when SF Pride named Wikileaker Chelsea (née Bradley) Manning as a grand marshal, but quickly rescinded the honor.
The outgoing board further embroiled itself in controversy Sunday night when secretary Lou Fischer declared that the vote, with a total of 143 valid ballots cast, had produced no winners.
The latest dust-up arose from an unusual procedure that allows voters to cast votes either for or against a candidate, or to abstain. All candidates had to receive more than half positive votes, and among those, the ones with the most votes would be elected to the seven open seats.
Election monitor Jokie Wilson described the balloting as “clean,” but the tabulation process was anything but. Some election officials and board members misinterpreted the procedure, claiming that negative votes should be subtracted from positive votes, which left all candidates below the 50% + 1 threshold.
This was an “insane method,” newly elected board member (and former board chair) Joey Cain told the Castro Biscuit, and not one specified in the bylaws.
But at a hastily called special meeting Wednesday evening, election officials re-tabulated the votes — with abstentions but not negative votes subtracted — and confirmed that the top seven vote-getters will be seated on the board as of October 1.
All but one of the reform slate candidates were among the lucky winners: Cain, Gary Virginia, Marsha Levine, Jesse Oliver Sanford, Jose Cital, and John Caldera. Sanford was the candidate who received a pre-election email message demanding his withdrawal from former Pride CEO Earl Plante, which led to Plante’s forced resignation.
“I’m personally looking forward to engaging the LGBTQ community to think outside of the box, put everything on the table, and make serious changes to the inclusiveness, message, look, and experience of the parade and celebration,” Virginia told the Castro Biscuit. “I’ve heard a lot of criticisms; now I want to hear creative solutions and commitments to get involved.”
“As the youngest member of the board, I look forward to bringing my fresh insight to help bridge the generation gap that plagues this city and I’m eager to receive the mentorship that all of my experienced colleagues have to offer,” Jose Cital told the Castro Biscuit.
One current board member, Justin Taylor, was re-elected. Four others who stood for re-election — Pam Grey, Shaun Haines, Kirk Linn-Degrassi, and Javarre Cordero Wilson — were ousted.
Accountability proponents will now make up a solid majority of the new board, which also includes a few existing members (including Fischer) who were not required to stand for re-election this term. According to Cain, the status of former board chair Lisa William’s seat is unclear, as she has taken a leave of absence to temporarily replace Plante as CEO.
“I am glad that the election problems were resolved,” said Cain. “We can now get to work bringing professional management and community accountability to SF Pride and begin to rebuild Pride’s damaged reputation and make sure all elements of the many communities that make up LGBTQ San Francisco and the Bay Area feel welcomed and a part of SF Pride.”