about Pride post
by Seth Hemmelgarn
Some sponsors who have worked with the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee for years are expressing serious concerns about the board of directors looking to replace Executive Director Brendan Behan.
Over the past year and a half, Behan has helped bring the nonprofit out of grave financial and leadership troubles, and the board's recent decision to seek someone new surprised many, including Behan, who said in September when the board's intentions were publicly revealed that he planned to apply for the post.
Behan, who referred questions for this story to the board, said last month that "the main sticking point" between him and the board is whether he should be an at-will employee, meaning the board could terminate him at any time.
Doug Donnellan, vice president and general manager of San Francisco Toyota/Scion, said his concern is "the continuous revolving door."
"They can't pick a direction," Donnellan, whose company has sponsored Pride for nine years, said. "They can't put their faith in a guy who obviously has done a great job for them and has some business sense. Unfortunately, I don't think the board understands that an event like this has to be run like a business."
Behan became Pride's interim executive director in April 2011 and eventually gained the permanent position. The top post had been vacant since former Executive Director Amy Andre left in November 2010, just over a year after she started the job. Soon after the 2010 celebration, several community partners complained that Pride had shortchanged them. In December 2010, the city controller's office revealed that the nonprofit was $225,000 in debt.
Donnellan said that now is when Pride should be renewing sponsorships and finding new supporters. He said whether he'll leave if Behan does is "a huge question mark at this point."
Other sponsors also voiced confidence in Behan and want him to remain.
"I do hope that the board decides to keep Brendan on. I really do think it's in the best interest of all parties that they make an agreement," said Val Klein, director of marketing and promotions for Clear Channel Media and Entertainment, which has sponsored Pride for more than a decade.
Klein said when she saw the September 20 Bay Area Reporter story on Behan's possible departure, her first reaction was "surprise and concern" that Clear Channel and the Pride event itself "would suffer from a change in leadership."
"I believe in the last year Brendan has been running Pride, he's shown to be a great leader," Klein said. She credited him with stabilizing the organization's relationships and reputation.
If Behan does leave, Klein said she'd continue working with the organization "but the nature of our continued partnership is dependent on the leadership that they would choose."
If Clear Channel did drop its support, "That could mean the discontinuation of live television coverage of the San Francisco Pride Parade. We are the only ones that carry it in its entirety," Klein said.
Jim Hollenbeck, whose Hollenbeck Associates has donated public relations services to Pride for years, said, "We want Brendan Behan to stay at Pride."
"Brendan has done phenomenal things with Pride," Hollenbeck said. "I don't think anyone could say Brendan Behan has not done a great job as executive director of Pride during one of their most difficult times in history."
He said he was "very upset" when he first heard the board was looking for someone new, "because it just didn't make sense to me. I know how passionate Brendan is about the job, and I know he does not want to leave the job."
Sponsors aren't the only people questioning Pride's board.
Andy Copperhall, who's held the key position of Pride's beverage manager for 12 years, said in an email, "I cannot support them any more."
"I really feel that the board as a whole should be the ones leaving," Copperhall said. "They should be completely and utterly ashamed of the disgrace they have afforded SF Pride over the last four years. They have such an inwardly focused view, and fail to see the bigger picture. They constantly are repeating their mistakes, and fail to learn and or listen."
Pride board President Lisa Williams said the organization wants to open up the recruiting process.
"We did not have the time to do that when SF Pride was experiencing the challenges of a couple of years ago, and we felt that it was incumbent upon us as a board to open SF Pride's recruitment and hiring process to a broader pool of potential candidates," Williams said in an email.
She declined to respond to Copperhall's comments, but said she plans to serve out her term on the board.
The application deadline for the chief executive officer position, which is what the Pride board is calling the position for which it's hiring, concluded September 27, and a committee is identifying qualified candidates, Williams said.
"The board will make its decision in a reasonably prudent time," she said.