Breaking News: Utah Pride Center lays off workers, cuts salaries

Update: Utah Pride corrected the date of the talking circle to tomorrow, Wednesday, October 30, 4-6 p.m.


The Utah Pride Center announced today two layoffs and the dissolution of one of their most popular programs, saying that funding shortfalls are forcing the service organization to make tough choices as their fiscal year ends.

Leaders announced that two grants are ending this fiscal year and the Center was unable to replace the $125,000 income.

“Because of our financial forecast, it’s no longer business as usual at Utah Pride,” the group released in a statement. “After carefully looking at all aspects of our situation, we are taking necessary measures to ensure the survival of the organization and its vital mission in the Utah community.”

Released from their positions today were Joe Gonzales, director of operations, and Charles Lynn Frost, director of community engagement & awareness/SAGE Utah. Other staff will see salary and benefit reductions.

Outgoing president Nikki Boyer is expected to be replaced by board member John Netto in January. According to a Facebook post by Frost, Netto told him during his exit interview that “the board and leadership have failed.”

Frost also said he was told the Center does not have enough funding to stay in operations past February.

“Programs are in jeopardy, with my passion — SAGE — being disposable,” Frost wrote. “Programs that are not immediately grant funded, mission critical, or serving a marginalized or disenfranchised demographic are on the chopping block for consideration.”

Boyer said that the SAGE Utah program will continue.

“We will continue to provide a myriad of opportunities for SAGERS [those over 50] to be engaged and involved,” the statement read.

The Center also announced a “talking circle” to help “understand the news today and help us move forward” on Oct. 30 from 4 to 6 p.m.

The Utah Pride Center had gross receipts of $2,089,047 and just over $1 million in net assets in calendar year 2012, according to IRS records. They showed a surplus of $479,856 that year.

A capital campaign to raise $5 million to renovate their new 6,000-square-foot building on 4th South has had difficulty gaining traction.

Former and current board members and staff have complained to QSaltLake over the last several months about financial responsibility and leadership issues of Center leaders, but none would go on record, making it difficult to report.

Executive director Valerie Larabee revealed in an interview with Queer New York Blog earlier this year that there was a power struggle between her and a board member over the invitation of Joe Jervis as co-grand marshal of the Utah Pride Parade, saying that he “resents her leadership and that his anti-Jervis action was really nothing more than a personal attack aimed at her more than Jervis.”

The unnamed director has refused to speak with us about that issue or any other Center-related issue since that interview.

QSaltLake was denied access to tonight’s board meeting. Larabee said it was because personnel issues were being discussed.

We will update this story as we can talk to all sides.

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  1. Frankly, there is something very fishy about all of this. Having served on the SAGE ADVISORY BOARD for two years, never at anytime were we ever advised of funding issues or lack of resources. In fact, considering new building one would conclude that funding was not an issue. The Executive Director has not been seen at most of the Sage Events including the summer BBQ or the Fall Potluck, not to mention her absence when Jim Struve and Maggie Snyder were honored by Sage at our annual garden party….. in which local and community dignitaries were present, all asking the same question…. where is the Director? Now apparently this is a discussion we all should be asking…..

    At what point do our Boards in this community hold the executive directors accountable?

  2. I don't like to see closed meetings… for ANY public group… at ANY time… for ANY reason. I hope this sorts itself out quickly.

  3. Same type of closed meetings when the, then, Gay & Lesbian Community Center "merged" with Pride. I don't like it… Nope.. not.. at.. all.

  4. I think that a steering committee of members of all ages and genders be organized to tell the pride centre what we want for the community.

  5. "The Center also announced a “talking circle” to help “understand the news today and help us move forward” in 33 days — Nov. 30 from 4 to 6 p.m." A quote from the article. I assume this will be open to the public. There were apparently some very personal issues that needed to be discussed tonight . I have no problem with the meeting being closed for that reason.

  6. I agree with Jerry. I am on the advisory board with Jerry and back up what he says. As for meeting being closed—NO! That is part of the reason the Utah Pride Center is now in jeopardy. OPEN to everyone–the truth needs to come out, good and bad. We need new leadership and new blood. There need to be meeting away from the Pride Center. Why are we waiting 33 days??? The media needs to do it's job, no denying access like they did tonight. The SL Tribune need to do some investigative work. THE TRUTH, by hell!!

  7. Sounds to me like years of secrecy, Gestapo-like rule by the director and many other problems have finally caught up with the Pride Center. Looks like somebody may have been dipping their fingers in the cookie jar. Shame on the center for having a closed meeting! Transparency is the only way things work.

  8. Yet were did the money go from last years and this years pride events….I thought all that money was suppose to fund the center and the employees

  9. I am very angry to hear this announcement from my friend of over 45 years. As an committee member of SAGE I am amazed at what Lynn has accomplished. To cut this program, probably the best that the Pride Center has, is unbelievable and detrimental. The whole operation needs new blood. Yes, you need to go Valerie. There is no confidence in you or the board. The center is in jeopardy of closing next year! I believe that there are bright and knowledgeable people that are willing to take over and work to restore confidence and funding to the center. Until this is done then I see many members of the community pulling back–in participation and donations. It can be done, but new people need to be in leadership.

  10. I for one believe that the pride center is in disarray and does not represent the Gay community as a whole. Phone calls are never returned, issues are never resolved, quality people are dismissed and Valerie as usual is rarely if ever seen in (OUR) community. Her position should be voted on, and have a 5 to 8 year run at best. New blood is essential for a fresh perspective on the critical Gay issues of the community. I have for years listened to Gay men who feel disillusioned at the way the Pride Center represents their interests. I care very much about our community and many of the people working at the center. Having been deeply involved in a large part of the Gay community for years I believe its time to bring a broom, because the Pride Center is a mess.

  11. Gail I love you but disagree, This is a non profit organization discussing issues for the better of our entire community, the meeting is open or fraudulent at best

  12. Kent Frogley This is not true, Sage needs the resources of a 501 and the Center was that vechical. Without Charles Lynn Frost as our employee, the array of services possible will be reduced to simple potluck events…. where Sage was going in terms of social advocacy comes to a halt now. I would also suggest that the level of mismanagement is not limited to the Sage program……

  13. Jerry respectfully I think you are predicting a future that supports what you would like to believe versus what may actually happen.

  14. I will rethink this, Dave. I think most of you know more about this than I do. Of course, I think all the relevant facts need to come out. I understand there have been serious problems for a long time. But I didn't know that until tonight.

  15. When discussions are being held regarding personnel, it is standard to close a meeting, even for a non profit, due to confidentiality concerns. That being said, TEA of Utah has only held one closed meeting, and really, it was only closed for 15-20 minutes.

    Non profits are not required to hold public meetings of their Board 100% of the time. TEA does because of our commitment to transparancy. A closed meeting, however, is perfectly within their rights. We may not like it, but there's nothing illegal about it.

    I am anxious to hear all sides of this issue.

  16. Gail, while I agree that certain things should be discussed where minimal damage to personnel are concerned with an economic downturn; there is a history of a privileged few in the Lesbian and Gay community (I say L&G because B's and T's are seldom part of these cliques) having closed door meetings dealing with PUBLIC non-profit organizations…. all the while pitching a fit if the Mormon Republicans on the Hill do the same thing.

    ANY major changes, if not covered or steeped in shadow, deserve the light of day. Especially when money comes from public donations.

    That's what vexes me.

  17. That being said, this team has resurrected The Center from certain demise in the past. I'm confident they can again. I just hope that this time 'round, they'll have the common decency to allow light to be shed on the process.

  18. Jerry, SAGE can still operate under the auspices of the 501c3 of the UPC. It just has to become an affiliated program, which I assume it already is. Having Charles as a paid staff was just wonderful icing on the cake.

    Any funds donated and earmarked for SAGE, HAVE to go to SAGE.

  19. Cary Kyra for the very awesome Pride we now enjoy, we also pay something like 5 x what we used to be able to do Pride for. I haven't seen the figures from 2013, but some people involved told me the budget for the Pride Week was somewhere near $300,000. I don't think there would be a lot of funds left with that price tag.

  20. The Board is responsible, too. Can't just blame management. In any non-profit, the board defines and directs the mission. The management team are there to fulfill the day-to-day work of the Board's directions.

    I know that the Board has been less than inclusive when it comes to Trans* issues. Even with all I've done for the L&G community, with all I did volunteering for Pride, I've never once been asked to participate on any board. It's actually rather insulting. And 2 of the trans board members left as soon as possible, swearing never to return because of having their voices silenced.

    The last 2 years, Valerie has supported the Trans* community in unprecedented passion.. with emotional AND financial support.

    Maybe it's time for a clean sweep of the Board.

  21. All Board meetings should be open to the public. The personnel issues should have been discussed before or after the general meeting, thus allowing for public access.

  22. And this "talking circle" won't be an opportunity for open dialogue. It will be Valerie(or hopefully someone new) doing damage control. And it will look just like all of the other events they host. A half empty room of people.

  23. Cutting the SAGE program would be tragic! Although I am not in the age bracket of the SAGE community yet I can see that it is vital that we have programs in place for the aging LGBT community that we will all become. So many are left shut behind their front door with no social contact and losing out on the benefits that are afforded by being amongst our fellows. I don't know anything at all about the board, however, I am disappointed that a non-profit is operating in secrecy. Obviously things need to change and if that begins with a new board then let the heads roll. Open the meetings regardless. Our community. Our Center, Our Input. Maybe a few less fancy galas and a little humility in the leadership is a start?

  24. I worked for the Center for 2 years building up the QSA Network. Same thing happened to me and the QSA Network that is now happening to Charles and SAGE. Without a staff person advocating for specific programs on behalf of the community, and spending the time to lead those programs, they will fall through the cracks.
    Things need to change at the center and new leadership is needed! The center has been so separated from the community and our needs it is outrageous!

  25. Any organization with 80% staff turnover has trouble at the top. It's time for a new executive director.

  26. SAGE Utah is a program of the Utah Pride Center and is dedicated to enhancing the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults aged 50+ in our community. The program is continually evolving to address the interests and needs of the 50+ LGBT persons, and in addition to providing social events, will be exploring workshops, service projects and community advocacy. SAGE Utah is your community organization and involvement and input is valued. SAGE Utah is affiliated with the national SAGE USA which has pioneered programs and services for older LGBT people across the country since 1978. Follow SAGE Utah on Facebook for updates, interesting articles and more.

  27. Update: Utah Pride corrected the time of the Talking Circle to 4-6 pm tomorrow at the Center building.

  28. Not surprising to see Utah Pride going through turmoil… That organization always has and always will. I was on the committee years ago when a co-chair decided to embezzle $9000.00. That organization should not be on its own, another non-profit should take over Pride Day and dissolve Utah Pride altogether.

  29. Chris, the organization you are talking about no longer exists. After the incident you reference, they voted to disband and the function of operating Pride was taken over by the then GLBT Center which has since changed its name to the Utah Pride Center. None of those involved in the original Utah Pride organization are part of the current board or staff.

  30. The only way a 'talking circle' will be effective in any way whatsoever is that at the start Larabee and the board resign immediately and hand over the reins to an interim director and board president who understand that transparency and accountability will be now essential in order to repair the damage to the organization's capacity for credibility and competence. Otherwise, it will be an empty-headed exercise of futility. For the sake of the community, there should at least be a full-hearted apology and acknowledgment of the catastrophic leadership failure.

  31. Lets just make it really simple and simply clear…THE PLACE IS A F***ING JOKE AND SERVES NO ONE anymore…accept their own tele-novella leadership insulating themselves and a half wit, narcissistic drama queen consultant who somehow finds herself wedging her way back in there like the wicked witch's winged monkey when the exec. direct. needs protection. I find it funny that, as far as I can remember, there has never been a female let go from the place but you can't swing a gay guy without hitting another one who's been laid off from that tragedy of a pretend organization.

    I feel badly for the 3 main seed supporters of the new building (yes, they know that these things are a risk because they are successful business people with huge hearts and, I would say, an unrealistic but hopeful look at what their dollars can do not knowing that it was put in the wrong hands. I think they were sold a chicken and were never told that it couldn't lay eggs). Their generosity has basically been flushed down the toilet…all sold by telling these 3 that they had a bright, new and shiny development team…only to clean up said development team 2 days after getting over couple hundred k for the project. That's just cheap and unfair play.

    I don't know who these "pillars in the community" are representing the community as "my voice" and actions but I'll tell you what, there are other, far more proficient people with actual supporting credentials/professional history in the community than these ass clowns ruling that roost. Honestly, its angering having these loons speak for our community, directing us around fighting our fights with their egos and making the rest of us looking like victim idiots…NO THANKS!

    Kinda makes you want to throw your hands up when parts of the community like this here continue to do more alienating and segmenting and more harm than good…and keep having these unendless "lets talk about it and heal" circles (F THAT BULL***T). It will always be sub par as long as that leadership is there, period. Fix it.

    I'll tell you what, a larger part of this community doesn't want any part of this organization as it stands. Kind of makes you feel like you're okay when you hang around them for more than 5 minutes, though. (and I thought my community was supposed to be a place where I could feel included and have a sense of belonging and trust).

    Sage was a great part of our community, and there was a glimmer of hope for that organization with it there. Sorry it is gone, and that there were yet 2 more men let go, and for my friends who work there.

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