Festival coordinators quit as Atlanta Pride resignations continue

Two longtime Atlanta Pride Committee members resigned as the non-profit manages the ongoing departures of board members, staff and committee members leading into its 50th annual event.

Andrew Dugger and Matt Boddie were co-chairs of Atlanta Pride’s logistics & operations committee, which Dugger (top photo) described as “central command” of the October festival. A third member of the committee — Doc Badawi — also resigned.

That leaves that entire committee vacant, according to Dugger.

“After having volunteered with Atlanta Pride since 2011, I'm heartbroken to see what the organization has turned into in a very short period of time and felt it best for me to walk away instead of continue be amongst the chaos and have that continue to wear on my spirit,” Dugger told Project Q Atlanta.

Boddie resigned on Jan. 16, Dugger resigned on Jan. 18 and Badawi left shortly after that, according to Dugger. Boddie told Project Q he had been with Atlanta Pride since 2012, and that he left this month for personal reasons. Badawi joined in 2019, according to Dugger. 

Badawi declined to comment on his resignation. 

The logistics & operations committee is responsible for setup and breakdown of the annual festival, coordinating onsite contractors, managing inventory of rented and purchased festival items, managing festival deliveries and managing the festival’s operations center, according to Atlanta Pride’s website.

'A chess game'

 

Dugger cited the events of the past few months at Atlanta Pride as the catalyst for his departure.

“It seems to be rapidly turning into a chess game of who you can get on your side for the sake of ego and maintaining a certain status as opposed to actually working to progress the LGBTQ+ community at large,” he said.

Dugger said Atlanta Pride’s troubles started when board members became critical of Executive Director Jamie Fergerson, “which is their job.”

Fergerson (second photo) and several unnamed board members need to step down, Dugger said.

“Not because I have anything against them as people, but because I feel as though Atlanta Pride's reputation has been tarnished and will continue to be so long as their names are actively attached to the organization,” he said.

Dugger called for a new round of board elections and for term limits to be instituted for board members. 

“Ultimately, I feel like Atlanta Pride needs to come back to square one and reassess itself with a new set of eyes,” he said.

Fergerson declined to comment on Dugger’s call for her resignation.

“I’m happy to say that while there are always people who need to move on from volunteer positions, we’ve had a substantial increase in the number of members in the last six months — both new members and members who have returned after some of the improvements we’ve made in the last year,” she said.

Committee chairs needed

 

Fergerson said the logistics & operations committee does have a chair, but did not say who that is. Dugger and Boddie are the only ones listed as co-chairs of that committee on Atlanta Pride’s website as of Tuesday. Joshua Dodd was listed as a third co-chair on the site as of Jan. 21, but has since been removed. Dodd said he left Atlanta Pride in 2016. 

Three of the 15 Atlanta Pride committees do not have chairs, according to its website. Dugger and Boddie's departures from logistics & operations would make that the fourth committee without a chair. The other three are accessibility services, creative & graphics, and cultural exhibit. Chairs of the committees are appointed each year by Fergerson, according to the website.

Chair recruitment continues through the spring, according to Fergerson.

An Atlanta Pride attorney recommended replacing Fergerson and making wholesale changes to the board of directors in August. 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. Fergerson asked Atlanta police to investigate the leaked documents, though an incident report listed it as a “non-crime.”

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. New positions have been created to fill those roles, according to Fergerson.

Atlanta Pride gave over $100,000 in grants to 16 metro Atlanta non-profits as part of its community reinvestment initiative earlier this month.

Photo courtesy Andrew Dugger