Atlanta Pride is doing damage control after leaked documents were sent to media outlets, according to Executive Director, Jamie Fergerson. The non-proﬁt has hired an outside PR ﬁrm after the leak and after APC’s chair, Sean Cox, resigned just three days before the 2019 pride festivities.
“It is very disappointing to see that someone in the organization violated their ﬁduciary duty to APC,” said attorney Patti Richards in a statement regarding the leaked information. Richards was hired by APC to do a governance review. During her role starting in July, she was present for only one board meeting where she took notes. Those notes are what Fergerson says was leaked to media outlets, not any ofﬁcial reports stated otherwise.
“The articles released contain information illegally obtained and leaked from numerous privileged and conﬁdential communications of the APC Executive Committee and the Board of Directors beginning near the end of July,” Richards said. Fergerson met with Georgia Voice stating the email sent to media outlets was just a summary from a July meeting, not a “recommendation” from Richards on what the organization should do as far as changes to the board.
“The documents relate to the Board of Directors’ desire to improve its governance practices to beneﬁt APC as a whole,” said Richards in a statement regarding the leaked documents. “The information was taken out of context and was reworded to suit the reporter’s desired interpretations.”
Fergerson and other board members have yet to see the documents even after multiple requests to media outlets that obtained the leaked information. According to those media outlets, the attorney “suggested the organization undergo an audit, overhaul a ‘clearly dysfunctional’ board of directors and replace Fergerson.
Fergerson responded saying the organization has annual audits that they post for the public on their website. She also stated that there were varying views on how the organization should be governed and which direction needed to be taken regarding the organization’s growth.
“There was a lot of disagreement on the board. I don’t think that’s a secret at this point,” said Fergerson. “Some of the things that are in that speciﬁc memo are not correct. For instance, there’s a vote in that memo that keeps getting referenced in Project Q. They keep saying there was a 7-6 vote to retain me. That’s not correct.”
Fergerson states in an email on Oct. 31 regarding a closed meeting Cox called, directing the Board Liaison for the membership and the ED not to attend. In that meeting, a motion to approve staff reorganization under Cox was voted on, failing to pass. Following that vote, a motion to terminate Fergerson failed with one yes vote, eight no votes, and three abstentions.
“I can tell you that at no point in any of her communications that I’ve seen did Richards recommend that anyone be separated from the organization, including me,” said Fergerson. She says because of looming disagreements on the board and in the organization, Richards suggested there might need to be changes made to how the non-proﬁt was operated. “I think with any public ﬁgure, you’d ﬁnd people who don’t like them,” said Fergerson. “I’m not immune to that. We’ve had people leave, we have people who don’t like me.”
One of those people Fergerson mentions was Cox. “Unfortunately, I tried very hard with him to work with him, and at the end of the day, he wasn’t interested in working with me. The proof is that he left,” she said. “I think that his own words are that he wanted to get rid of me. He has publicly said that.”
Cox sent a letter via email to the board when he resigned stating the non-proﬁt was facing “signiﬁcant ﬁnancial issues, staff management issues, contract issues” and sponsor complaints. Fergerson again refers back to the organization’s annual audits regarding those claims of ﬁnancial issues.
In documents provided by Fergerson, Georgia Voice found a nearly 80 percent increase in total organization income since 2015, in addition to a 123 percent increase in corporate sponsorships since 2015. Since 2012, the organization has increased sponsors from 35 to 83, and small business partners from 10 to 40. In total, a nearly 35 percent increase in one year. “Our growth far outpaces the LGBTQ sector and the non-LGBTQ sector,” said Fergerson. “Just since 2015, we’ve had an almost 400% increase in community giving.”
The board will vote this month to determine the total amount for giving back in the 2019-2020 year. This year, Fergerson and board members are targeting $100,000 in community reinvestment grants.
“For me, I think it’s the most important thing that we do,” said Board Chair Trisha Clymore. “Last year did some great things like helping disadvantaged people get high school diplomas, transporting people for HIV treatment, and some fun stuff like giving to Voices of Note to help people come together and build people up. Last year we gave $10,000 to the Rush Center. That allowed us to touch dozens of organizations through a single grant.”
The board will announce a grand total for community reinvestment on Dec. 14, and decide who will be beneﬁtting from their organization’s efforts in giving back.