Group sends questions to Atlanta Pride seeking transparency

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An open meeting took place on Thursday at My Sister’s Room to challenge Atlanta Pride Committee’s internal processes. The upshot was a list of “questions and demands” submitted to the committee on Monday.

Jennifer and Jami Maguire, owners of My Sister’s Room, and James Nelson, owner of X Midtown, agreed to co-organize the meeting a few weeks after Atlanta Pride canceled its festival and parade for 2021. They are among venues and party promoters stepping up for Pride Weekend 2021 in Atlanta.

About 25 people attended. The goal was to remain productive and seek solutions, not bash or air grievances, according to the public invitation.

The discussion lasted about an hour and was broadcast on Facebook Live. One existing Pride board member participated in the chat during the live broadcast, and those comments remained visible on the video Monday morning.

No current Atlanta Pride board or committee members attended the meeting.

The mic went to multiple speakers, including former Atlanta Pride Board Chair Sean Cox, as well as former board members Tony Kearney, Travis Brookshire and Kevin Calhoun. A video created specifically for the meeting by former Atlanta Pride executive director James Parker Sheffield was also shown.

Cox stepped down in 2019, along with others on the board, staff and committee, after an attempt to oust Pride executive director Jamie Fergerson following a scathing internal audit. The effort to terminate Fergerson’s employment failed by a razor-thin board vote, and Atlanta Pride went on the defensive.

All of that took place in the fall of 2019 with sustained criticism and fallout into the early months of 2020. The pandemic sidelined Atlanta Pride like everyone else in March 2020, and it hosted a virtual festival in October 2020.

Since then, Pride worked toward a 2021 festival and parade in October, including some Stonewall Month events, before canceling in August citing ongoing COVID concerns. Among its activities, Pride also awards monetary grants to local LGBTQ people and organizations and co-sponsors events by other organizations.

Former Atlanta Pride Board Chair Sean Cox spoke at the Sept. 16 meeting. (Photo by Russ Bowen-Youngblood)

Questions, concerns and demands

The 2021 event cancelations sparked Thursday’s discussion, but participants focused more on Atlanta Pride processes for membership, board posts and decision making. On Monday morning, a list of questions and demands gleaned during the meeting, including if the committee would consider firing Fergerson, went to Atlanta Pride by email.

MSR’s Jennifer Maguire also posted the Pride challenges online. She said meeting attendee and co-organizer Missy Moore attempted to hand-deliver a copy to Pride offices as well, but no one was there. She left a copy in the building, she said.

The questions and concerns are posted in their entirety below. Project Q plans to report any response from Atlanta Pride Committee and other outcomes of the effort to delve into its internal processes.

September 20, 2021

Q&A, ATL Community to Atlanta PRIDE Board and E.D.

The following are questions and demands compiled from the members of the LGBTQ+ community to the Atlanta Pride Board Members and Executive Director.

Please kindly respond to the community no later than, 6pm Wednesday, September 22, 2021.

This will allow our community the time to respond prior to the next Board meeting currently set for, Saturday, September 25, 2021.

If the Board meeting date is changed, please promptly advise our community on the FB post thread.

  1. We ask that the Board and E.D. abstain from any vote regarding, removing the Board assignments from the Members.

Making Atlanta PRIDE a self-perpetuating Board would be detrimental to Atlanta PRIDE and further limit the support of the community and community sponsors, by not supporting transparent and inclusive elections by the people of the community.

  1. We ask that the blanket NDA’s be discontinued immediately, and previous NDAs likewise be terminated effective immediately.

It is understood that certain specifics cannot be discussed prior to announcement or binding contracts; those confidential matters should be labeled as such versus an overreaching NDA. Transparency and the right to free speech and sharing of ideas by any Board Member and any person of the Membership should respectfully be embraced by Atlanta PRIDE as a representative of, and to, our community.

  1. Please provide copies of the, “Committee By-Laws” as they were stated prior to the posted, “Revised 9/26/2020, Committee By-Laws”; by uploading them to your website for all or emailing to, [email protected]

Some of the bylaws have been changed by the Board and E.D. in the last few years. The changes appear to be related to the Board and what they can and can’t do. Also, on how they are elected.

  • What were the changes and why?
  1. Please provide a full list of the contractors that were retained for ATLANTA PRIDE 2019 – 2021
  2. We request clarity regarding the, “2020 financials”.
  • Why have the 2020 Financials not been listed on the organization’s website?

​5.A. ​Additionally, for transparency, please provide the following documents, by uploading to your ​​​​website or emailing to, [email protected]

  • Last 3 years of financial audits, P&Ls, Balance Sheets, current insurance policies (all lines), Quarterly Financial Reports and Quarterly 941, for the community to review

​5.B.​The www.AtlantaPride.org/about_us/the_financials / reflects,

​​2018 Financial Report, Audit Letter and Tax Returns

​​2019 Tax Returns, Tax Transmittal Notice and Audit Report nor Financial Report

​​2020 – NO DOCUMENTS are listed

​​5.C. ​2019 Total Support & Revenues is documented as $1,929,327

​​​2019 Total Expenses are listed as $1,870,123

  • Please provide the name of each contractor and their costs for 2019 and 2020 that were paid,

​This is to help clarify where the revenue is being spent/invested. i.e., Audit 2019 Financials Summary Line totaling the sum of;

​​​$823,120 for Festival/Events Logistics​

​​​$267,838 for Fundraising, ($222,468 for Fund Raising Expenses)

​​​$241,914 Festival Entertainment

​​​$57,095 Relations & Publications

  • Which company(ies) and how much was /were these contract(s)?

5.D.​The POSE Scholarship is listed as ($461) please clarify why this scholarship is not more robust.

​​​

  1. Referring to 5.C., $241,914 Festival Entertainment

​The community is asking for clarity regarding the lack of headline entertainment, to help draw more attendees for the festival.

This is important when you look at what other prides can afford or are investing in, regarding entertainment. Is it lack of fundraising? Mismanagement of funds? i.e., Chicago PRIDE is a week before us & has the likes of, Chaka Khan, Tiesto and DJ Gryffin. Atlanta PRIDE’s entertainment is an ongoing discussion in the community.

  • Overall, why is Atlanta PRIDE’s lineup of celebrity entertainment not as robust compared to other large cities?
  1. Please provide a full list of Sponsors and how their cash donations were allocated for 2018-2020.
  • Please advise if all these generous sponsors had funds returned for 2020 & 2021, if yes, in full?
  • If not, please provide detail explanation per sponsor and per year.
  1. Have all the purchasers of floats, etc. been refunded for 2020 & 2021?
  • If not, when should they expect a refund & should it be expected in full?
  • Please advise if all these engaged community members had funds returned for 2020 & 2021, if yes, in full?
  • If not, please provide detail explanation per sponsor and per year.
  1. It is noted that the contract for purchases by participates had a 10% retained payment clause for any cancellation.
  • Noting that the cancellation of 2021 has come without outreach to the community nor our sponsors, should all of the above expect a 100% refund or credit?
  • If yes, by what date?
  1. Why is the membership negligeable, 13 Members is the number of Members reported, compared to the estimated 4.2% of metro Atlanta’s population identifying as part of our community?
  • Please verify this number.
  • We are requesting that membership be available all persons in our community along with voting rights. This includes individual and corporate members.
  1. Why is it reported that merely an approximate, 12-13 Members attend meetings to vote on Board Members?
  • Given that our community encompasses a vast array of people including homebound, OTP/ITP, socio-economically challenged and highly engaged mobile persons, why has Atlanta PRIDE not opened up membership to all and offered e-voting by all for all in regards the Board positions elections; in collaboration with various institutions for voting for those that are in need of computer/Wi-Fi access?
  1. We request that the Board Members be voted on every two years by all Members via e-vote.

Beginning no later than 12/1/21; giving time for community membership drive & on-boarding.

  1. We are requesting a new webpage on the current website that makes it public knowledge, who applies to be on the Atlanta PRIDE Board. Additionally, the community would like to have more choices of qualified applicants to be voted on.
  2. We also request an online Membership Directory, with an opt-out option for those individuals and companies that need to remain anonymous.

This is to help connect our community and supporters outside of PRIDE month.

  1. Please clarify to the community who made the final decision to cancel ATLANTA PRIDE 2021?
  • Did the entire Board, Members and E.D. vote to cancel PRIDE Atlanta?
  • If yes, did any of the Board, Members or E.D. oppose the vote?
  • If yes, how many of each opposed cancelling Atlanta PRIDE?
  1. Did the Board, Members and E.D. discuss that other PRIDE parades and events were not cancelled in 2020 & 2021?
  • If yes, was there discussion about reaching out to other PRIDE organizations for guidance

to continue with a safe event in 2020 or 2021 for the Atlanta community?

  • Is there documentation that can be shared evidencing meetings or emails that proposed alternatives versus cancelling the entire Atlanta PRIDE parade/event? If yes, please provide.
  1. Please confirm if/when the current E.D. will be stepping down from her role.
  2. Will the current Board Members be stepping down this year to open up seats for new Board Members?
  • If not, when?
  1. Will someone be assigned or hired to answer the community’s phone calls and emails in the ATLANTA PRIDE

office?

There is concern that is very difficult to reach anyone or get a response from the ATL PRIDE paid staff.

  1. Please share the detailed current Board election process.

We are requesting details, as some of the by-laws seem to be very vague.

  1. Is there an Audit Committee? If yes, how can they be reached?
  2. We ask that a new Financial Auditor be hired, as the current one has been there for approximately 15 years.

This a request for checks and balances by multiple sources.

  1. How was the Atlanta Pride Committee rated in terms of other PRIDES around the world?
  • What is Atlanta PRIDE’s rating among others?
  1. Has the Board or E.D. ever hired a Business Consultant to review the organization’s strategy, branding,

mission, vision, comparatives to other similar orgs, possible re-org and consolidation of costs?

​It has been shared that there was one prior initial review; that review included a recommendation that Atlanta PRIDE should drop the required NDA; and furthermore, that no other organization known to the Business Consultant required an NDA for Board Members or Membership. That direction was not embraced.

  • Why not?
  • What other recs were given and implemented OR rejected, and why?
  • Is there a Business Consultant review that can be uploaded to your website and shared or emailed to [email protected] for community response/review?
  1. Who screens the nominations for the election of Board Members?
  • How many are on this committee? Who are they?
  • How many individuals submitted for a Board position and how many were voted on in the last election?
  1. There are only 3 employees.
  • Do the Board Members head committees such as the Parade, Fundraising, Community Relations, Media, and Sponsorship Committees?

  • If yes, who is designated as the Chair for oversight of these committees to help ATLANTA PRIDE be successful?

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