SF Pride hires new leader
by Seth Hemmelgarn
Organizers of the San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade and celebration have hired a new leader, replacing an executive director who'd garnered praise for helping to save the event from serious financial and leadership problems.
Earl Plante has been appointed chief executive officer by the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee's Board of Directors, which in a news release called him a "long time advocate and executive leader of nonprofit organizations that work to empower the LGBT community."
His most recent job appears to have been at New York City's Latino Commission on AIDS. He replaces Executive Director Brendan Behan, who had expressed a desire to stay on the job.
In a phone interview, Pride board President Lisa Williams said among the reasons for Plante's selection was his leadership skills and experience in strategic and event planning.
Plante has some "great ideas," said Williams, related to grant writing, working with community partners, and putting on events in addition to the main June festival, such as workshops.
The Pride Committee has seemed to have enough on its hands just putting on the festival in recent years, but Williams said, "Part of our mission statement is to educate the community and Earl is the right leader to do that."
Behan decided not to apply for the post, she said.
Reached through Facebook, Plante referred questions to Williams. Behan didn't respond to an interview request.
In the news release Plante stated, "I look forward to working closely with SF Pride leadership, sponsors, and the diversity of community stakeholders as we continue to build upon SF Pride's mission and visionary legacy."
The board's recent decision to seek replacement for Behan caught many, including Behan, by surprise. The move seemed to be based on a desire for Behan to be an at-will employee, meaning the board could terminate him at any time.
Pride's news release says Plante will begin transitioning to the Bay Area in mid-December. Williams declined to say what his salary would be. She said Behan, whose salary has been $80,000, would be helping Plante make his transition, but she didn't say when Behan's last day would be.
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. As of September, most of that had been paid down.
Pride's news release says Plante joins Pride from the Latino Commission on AIDS, where he served as development director. But staff at that organization said that Plante left there more than six months ago, before Pride's search for a new leader started.
Plante has also worked as executive director of One Voice Political Action Committee, an organization that works to elect progressive candidates to Congress. He's also worked as chief operating officer for the National Black Justice Coalition and as development director for the National Minority AIDS Council.
According to his Linked In profile, he's had four jobs since January 2005. His Facebook profile, which indicates he's bisexual, says he's 40.
Board member quits
Just as Pride prepares to greet Plante, board member Bill Hemenger, who had served as treasurer since early 2011, has resigned.
In a phone interview, Hemenger said he quit because of "time limitations," and because he was brought on "to help balance the books and help get [Pride] in the black," which he said has been accomplished. David Currie is the board's new treasurer.
Hemenger, whose resignation email is dated November 14, provided little clarity on why Behan is being replaced.
He said the board had faced questions including "who was best to lead the organization as far as vision," and that presented a conflict between Behan and the board.
"I think there's a couple things behind closed doors that are personnel issues that I don't think will ever be discussed," he said.