The chief executive officer of the organization that oversees San Francisco Pride has resigned under pressure from the board.
A letter from the board of directors of the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee released late Friday, September 6 said that the board and CEO Earl Plante “reached a mutual agreement” for Plante to resign. His resignation is effective immediately.
Pride board President Lisa Williams has taken a leave from the board and is serving as interim CEO. Davace Chin is now board chair.
The abrupt resignation comes just days after news broke that Plante sent a threatening email to a Castro man seeking a position on the board.
“After several thoughtful discussions, the San Francisco Pride board of directors and Earl Plante have reached a mutual agreement for Earl to resign as chief executive officer,” the email said. “His resignation is effective immediately.”
Jesse Oliver Sanford, the gay man and Pride board candidate who was threatened in an email by Plante, said it was the corporatization of SF Pride that proved the downfall of the embattled CEO.
“He’s an excellent corporate fundraiser,” Sanford said of Plante, “but fundraising is not the whole picture.”
Sanford said Plante and other SF Pride board members were “out of touch” with their membership and with the broader LGBT community in San Francisco.
The email from Plante’s SF Pride account to Oliver stated, “You will need to resign from board consideration by 5pm Thursday or I will be forced to go to police informing them that you assaulted me earlier this year. Current board members also have already been informed and all were shocked that you were considering running after what you did …”
The incident Plante is referring to occurred at the Pride board’s May 7 meeting when the Manning grand marshal fiasco resulted in chaos, with angry Manning supporters demanding the honor be restored. Sanford, who identifies as gay, said in an email that he was part of a crowd outside the SF Pride office who was angry when the meeting was abruptly canceled.
Neither Sanford nor anyone else was cited in the alleged assault on Plante. Sanford said he “never touched Earl” and was never close to him.
On Wednesday, Plante said he sent the email as an individual Pride member and not in is position as CEO. But the damage had apparently been done.
After initially naming Manning as a grand marshal in late April, the Pride board reversed itself two days later. Initially Williams, in a statement, said that it was a “mistake” to name Manning a grand marshal. Later, the board came out with a second statement that said Manning couldn’t be considered for a community grand marshal slot because he is not local.
At a May community meeting, Plante lost his temper when a speaker derided Williams. And then the Pride board determined that Manning, who was convicted last month of leaking classified materials to WikiLeaks, would not be honored in any way at the Pride parade.
“The Chelsea Manning controversy had been building for years,” Oliver said. “It was decades of corporatization that resulted in the controversy.”
“Earl got caught up in something he didn’t understand,” Sanford said. “I feel sad for him.”
The Pride board’s email praised Plante for his fundraising. “His level of commitment to our community has enabled Pride to realize financial stability,” the email read.
Plante’s “contributions allowed us to produce the largest, most successful Pride parade and celebration in our 43-year existence,” the board’s email said.
Gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener told the Bay Area Reporter Friday evening that he has “continuing concerns” about Pride’s governance structure.
“There are many good people who work very hard to make the parade a success each year,” Wiener said. “I want to make sure these folks can continue to succeed with a governance model that promotes stability in the organization. I’m not seeing that stability now and haven’t for awhile.”
Gay District 9 Supervisor David Campos, who earlier this year called for a hearing at the Board of Supervisors on Pride, told the B.A.R. Friday that he, too, continues to have concerns with the way the nonprofit organization is run.
Though Campos emphasized that the problems at Pride “go beyond any one individual,” he said questions about Williams stepping down from the board to run Pride, after she and other board members were mostly non-responsive to Manning supporters and others in the community, were “legitimate.”
“I want to see a management structure that is transparent, responsive, and accountable,” Campos said.
He added that he and Wiener have sent in the request for a board hearing, which is scheduled for September 12 at 2 p.m. in room 250 at City Hall.
Plante was the second CEO to resign under pressure in recent years.
The B.A.R.‘s emails to Plante and Williams seeking comment were not immediately returned.
–Reported by James Patterson and Cynthia Laird