The Atlanta Pride Committee’s board of directors failed to force out a fellow member one day after he publicly raised concerns about the organization’s leadership and financial future.
The board voted six to five in favor of removing board member Chris Jones at a members-only board meeting on Sunday, according to sources who attended. But a two-thirds majority was needed for the motion to pass, so Jones (top photo) remains on the board.
The latest development comes in the wake of Atlanta Pride’s former Board Chair Sean Cox resigning after failing to oust the group’s executive director, Jamie Fergerson. An attorney hired by the group also recommended in an internal report that Fergerson (second photo) be replaced and that wholesale changes be made to a “clearly dysfunctional” board of directors.
Former volunteers and employees have also spoken out about mismanagement issues and a lack of transparency. The group hired a public relations firm to help manage the fallout that started in mid-October.
Concerns raised about financial growth
Jones sent an email to Atlanta Pride’s membership on Saturday, saying that the organization “remains divided, secretive and unequitable.” The email was obtained by Project Q Atlanta.
Jones said he disagreed with a decision to make an Oct. 27 board meeting closed to the public, fearing it would be viewed as a lack of transparency.
Jones claimed that four years into a five-year strategic plan, the organization has only accomplished 10 percent of its goals. Jones said he compiled financial data from the last four years for 20 different Pride organizations throughout the U.S. His goal was to compare revenue growth at Atlanta Pride with other groups.
“Over those four years, average growth was 70 percent for Prides across the country — ours was 30 percent,” he wrote.
“Sure – this is fantastic, but we lag far behind in the industry,” he added. “Why?”
Jones presented the information to the board in August.
“Additionally, a review of board meeting minutes will show a lack of plans, discussions, and strategies from the ED to address these concerns, while we continue to miss our fundraising diversity goals from the aforementioned strategic plan,” he wrote.
Jones also raised concerns about potential violations of Atlanta Pride’s financial policies.
“Let me be clear: I have not witnessed nor been told there is any financial malfeasance or impropriety occurring and, despite my current misgivings as to where things currently stand, we are indeed a financially sound organization worthy of your support and trust for another 50 years,” he wrote. “But I do not believe our current leadership, including the current ED and officers of the board, are the ones to lead us there.”
Jones said a board meeting was called for Sunday, but the agenda had been kept secret.
“Let me be the first to inform you that the purpose of this meeting is to seek my immediate removal from the board, in what I can only consider retaliatory for raising issues, questioning actions, speaking up during the last meeting and an attempt to besmear my character, keep me and other members silent, and label me as a disgruntled board member seeking retaliation,” he wrote.
Pride investigates board member
Trisha Clymore, who replaced Cox as chair, responded to Jones and the rest of the committee about his email on Saturday. Her reply was obtained by Project Q.
She said the meeting a day later was to reveal the results of an investigation into Jones initiated by Fergerson. Clymore then shared the results of the investigation.
The board claimed Jones spoke onstage at the Atlanta Pride festival in October without authorization. They also alleged he breached the organization’s confidentiality agreement by speaking out about “privileged board information regarding personnel issues, confidential discussions by the board of directors, and statements that could be considered harassment or bullying,” according to Clymore’s email.
The results of the investigation also stated that Jones claimed to be a CPA, but that the group has not been able find any record of his professional license.
The investigation concluded there was “substantial factual basis to the claims” and that Jones could state his case during the meeting on Sunday before consideration of the motion to remove him from the board.
Jones declined to comment on the allegations to Project Q and said Fergerson and Clymore had not authorized him to do so.
A 'summary' but not 'findings'
Clymore also sent a separate email to Atlanta Pride members on Saturday that claimed Project Q was provided with “factual information” that would refute the various allegations leveled by current and former board members, volunteers and employees.
When pressed about what information she referred to in the email, Clymore later told Project Q that Atlanta Pride denied Cox’s claims about financial issues, staff issues, contract issues and sponsor complaints. She called them “hearsay.” Clymore also denied Jones' claims about the group's financial outlook.
Clymore and Fergerson have previously denied that Patti Richards, an attorney Atlanta Pride hired to conduct an internal review, recommended replacing Fergerson as executive director. Richards recommended doing so according to a memo she sent to the board on Aug. 5. The memo was obtained by Project Q.
Richards wrote in the memo about Fergerson being concerned about doing her job and going to board meetings in a “hostile environment.”
“I told her she would just have to make her decision of what she was going to do based on what I told her,” Richards wrote. “I reported this to Trisha and told her that the board should after the festival begin a search for a new ED because there was not enough confidence in the ED by the board."
Project Q provided Fergerson and Clymore with that section of Richards' memo. Clymore claimed that Richards’ memo “was a summary of the July meeting and her notes after hearing from all sides; it was not her findings.”
Clymore also claimed that “other information came to light after that” that will be shared at Atlanta Pride’s annual general meeting in December.