Atlanta Pride member quits, fears workplace retaliation

Another Atlanta Pride Committee member resigned and the longtime volunteer said a "severe conflict of interest" by Pride's executive director had him in fear of losing his fulltime job.

Sebastian Beckham Nix is an employee at the Rush Center, which counts Atlanta Pride as one of its tenants, and volunteered on the Atlanta Pride Committee. Pride Executive Director Jamie Fergerson is also a Rush Center board member. Nix (photo) told Project Q Atlanta that he feared Fergerson would push for his firing for revealing any Pride matters he witnessed as a Rush Center employee.

Nix didn’t want to take that risk, according to a resignation letter he sent to Atlanta Pride board and committee members Thursday.

“[Fergerson’s] dual roles have muddied the waters enough that I am no longer comfortable volunteering with Atlanta Pride, for fear of retaliation at my place of employment,” he wrote.

Nix’s resignation followed the departures of numerous board members, staff and committee members in the past four months.

A group of Atlanta Pride Committee members requested that the board update its existing ethics code last fall, according to Fergerson. The new ethics package includes policies on conduct, email, media relations, whistleblowers, nondiscrimination, harassment, violence prevention, confidentiality and conflicts of interest. Committee members were given the new ethics package in December and asked to sign it by Feb. 1.

“More than 60 members signed on time,” Fergerson said. “Sebastian chose not to sign the ethics statement or to discuss any concerns with anyone in APC’s leadership.”

“We’re grateful for his prior years of service and looking forward to a fantastic year,” she added.

Nix said he was willing to sign the ethics package but couldn’t until the Rush Center staff and leadership finalized the collective bargaining process in an ongoing labor dispute

“Mind you, had Jamie not been on the board of the Rush Center, I would have immediately signed that packet,” he said. “But her dual roles created a severe conflict of interest.”

Former longtime Atlanta Pride Committee member Tony Kearney bemoaned the recent flood of resignations and turmoil at the organization. 

“Atlanta Pride is falling apart because the current leadership is putting their ego ahead of the best interests of the organization,” he said. “We’ve had so many resignations of board members and committee members across all parts of our community – black, white, brown, male, female, cis, trans and queer.”

“It’s truly sad that they continue to refuse to do the right thing,” he added.

Atlanta Pride is governed by a 12-person board of directors and includes three staff members and the executive director, Atlanta Pride Committee and volunteers, according to the organization's website. The executive director reports to the board chair. The Atlanta Pride Committee plans and implements the organization's events, including the annual festival in October, and consists of 15 subcommittees.

Atlanta Pride’s board chair resigned in October after a failed effort to oust Fergerson. He warned that the organization faced financial issues, management issues and sponsor complaints, which Fergerson denied.

The organization hired a public relations firm in October to manage the fallout from a leak of internal reports and criticism from current and former board members, employees, committee members and volunteers.

Atlanta Pride tried to oust board member Chris Jones after he publicly raised concerns about the organization’s leadership and financial future in November, but the vote failed. Jones and Travis Brookshire gave up their seats on the board in December and claimed that the organization conducted a “sham” board election, is awash in secrecy and is plagued by entrenched power.

Two of four Atlanta Pride staff members resigned in December and January. Three more committee members resigned in January, and one said he “was heartbroken to see what the organization has turned into in a very short period of time.”

Read Nix’s resignation letter below:

February 13, 2019

Dear Atlanta Pride Board of Directors and fellow Committee Members:

As most of you know the entire Rush Center staff, myself included, have signed our union cards with UFCW Local 1996.  While the Rush Center’s Board of Directors has agreed to voluntarily recognize our rights to unionize, we have yet to complete our collective bargaining.  I have been and am still unable to sign this year’s ethics agreement with Atlanta Pride until collective bargaining has been completed.  The duality of interest clause added this year would negatively impact that process, thus I have withheld my signature. 

Unfortunately, increasing conflicts of interest have arisen at my workplace, in regards to our Executive Director, Jamie Fergeson, also being a member of the Board of Directors for the Rush Center.  Those dual roles have muddied the waters enough that I am no longer comfortable volunteering with Atlanta Pride, for fear of retaliation at my place of employment. 

So with a heavy heart, I want to inform everyone of my resignation from the Atlanta Pride Committee, effective immediately.  I am appreciative of the friendships forged throughout the last 5 years.  I have had some really great experiences and will forever cherish those memories.  However, as the sole income earner for my family, I simply will not put my job at risk to be a volunteer.  

Best wishes to all remaining committee and board members in moving things forward for Atlanta’s 50th Pride celebration.  

In solidarity,

Sebastian Beckham “Becks” Nix

Photo courtesy Sebastian Beckham Nix