The LGBTQ+ nonprofit “could close, revive or restart,” officials wrote, after a third of its employees were reportedly fired.
Officials at one of the state’s most prominent LGBTQ+ organizations, the Utah Pride Center, admitted to “massive financial turmoil” in a statement to their supporters – after more than a third of the staff was reportedly laid off.
The statement, which was sent via email newsletter on Tuesday evening, was also posted to the center’s Instagram feed – but was deleted from the social media platform later in the evening.
Michael Aaron, editor and publisher of LGBTQ+ magazine QSaltLake Magazine, reported Monday that seven of the center’s 19 employees — including co-CEO Jonathan Foulk and communications director Rosa Bandeirinha — have been fired.
Neither Foulk nor Bandeirinha responded to requests for comment from the Salt Lake Tribune on Tuesday. Representatives from the Utah Pride Center also did not respond to multiple requests for comment Tuesday.
The statement said the center’s “staff reduction” was due to “massive financial turmoil the center is currently facing.” It also said the situation was “not new”.
“Redesigning the center is a long overdue task,” the statement said. “We don’t know what will happen, the center could be closed, revived or restarted.”
The statement said that leaders at the center “acknowledge the community’s disappointment and outrage at the instability” of the organization. The municipality was also asked to contribute to the further development of the centre.
Tuesday’s statement said the center’s remaining executive team — including CEO Tanya Hawkins, vice president of development Ted Nicholls, program director Britt Martinez, grants director Maxwell Miletich, director of suicide prevention and community health Ash Fletcher-García, and director of operations and Public Relations Jackson Carter – are “hopeful and confident that their hard work to get the center back on track will have an impact.”
The statement asked for the community’s patience while the center’s officials come up with a plan by October 1. All September programs will be suspended, center officials said, and the center will remain closed until next month.
The center’s 990 forms, which nonprofits must file with the IRS and post to disclose financial information, will only be available on the group’s website through 2020.
Founded in 1986 and given its current name in 2005, the center offers year-round programs for Utah’s LGBTQ+ community. The largest community event of each year and the largest fundraiser is the Utah Pride Festival and Parade in early June.
This year’s festival drew criticism from local artisans and manufacturers over increased booth prices, in what a previous vendor described as “another money-grabbing heist”. [a] A way to displace artists and make room for big corporations.” Some groups gathered at the Church & State Community Center, across from the Pride festival’s Library Square, for an alternative Pride event. At the time, Bandeirinha expressed sympathy for the providers’ frustration, but added that the center’s operating costs had “increased exponentially”.
The Pride festival featured some big stars as entertainment headliners, including drag performer Trixie Mattel. According to talent booking agency All American Speakers, Mattel’s booking fee for live speaking events ranges from $50,000 to $100,000.
Foulk told Tribune columnist Robert Gehrke in June that securing the festival has cost more than $300,000 — a far greater expense than in previous years — due to increasing threats to the LGBTQ+ community.
In a post on the center’s website after the June festival, Foulk wrote, “A lot of people don’t realize that our festival funds the life-affirming programs and services we offer to our community throughout the year.”
He also pointed out that the festival had to be evacuated for four hours on Saturday 3 June due to a severe thunderstorm. “We are working hard to mitigate the immense loss caused by this closure and spreading the message that the needs of our community are ever-present,” Foulk wrote in the post just above the Donate Now button.
In 2020, The Tribune reported concerns about the organization’s “questionable finances, mismanagement, lack of transparency” and other issues, including five former employees who sued the nonprofit. Her complaints included “mismanagement and financial misconduct.” The legal dispute is not yet settled.
This is an evolving story.
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