Source says Charlotte LGBT center rejected building purchase, board membership was purposefully kept small and exclusive

UPDATE: Center will host ‘open forum’ on Dec. 4, 7 p.m. More info…

Archive: All coverage of the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte

Over the past week, it’s been absolutely amazing how many people have reached out to me to share their experiences with the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte. Between those stories shared privately and those shared publicly on social media, it’s clear many of these experiences have been negative.

The catalyst to this public sharing and airing of previously unheard and/or ignored grievances has been my past week’s coverage and commentary on the center, starting last Sunday with the post, “Rent or resources? What are local LGBT organizations’ priorities?” Last night, I also published, “Charlotte’s LGBT center: Irresponsible spending, irresponsible non-profit governance.”

One community member, a real estate broker by trade, reached out to me recently to share how they once stepped up  to help the center, but ultimately felt the board was making bad decisions. That person asked me not to use their name, but did want their story shared. It’s unfortunate that this person doesn’t feel comfortable speaking out publicly, but I’m glad I’m able to help them them share their story and experience.

The community member speaks on the effort to help find the center new space after it was forced to move from its Central Ave. location in 2008. The group eventually moved to the NC Music Factory, a decision that left some in the community displeased. The location was out-of-the-way and out-of-sight, and it was not on an accessible city bus line. The location was also expensive, with the center spending as much as 60 percent of its expenses solely on occupancy expenses like rent and utilities. (Minutes I recently received from a July 2009 center board meeting show the group had as much as $5,000 in outgoing expenses each month.) It was a non-renewable expense they couldn’t really afford — unwisely spending money that might have otherwise been reinvested into their programs and services or, in the community member’s opinion, into a building purchase that would have eventually become an asset.

The community member also shares their impression of the board, including one board member who said they purposefully kept board membership numbers low and exclusive, a common complaint among many community members who have felt the board lacks transparency, inclusion or accountability. Over the past year or so, at least four new board members have been installed and then quit or resigned the board. Over the same time period, at least four previously-serving board members have also left the organization. Further, The center board has been asked repeatedly by me and others to publicly advertise when their board meetings take place and to open them to the public.

To be abundantly clear: The story shared by the community member below dates from 2007-2008. I do not believe it is appropriate to hold current board responsible for actions or statements made by past board members. But, I am sharing this story — particularly the community member’s thoughts about board composition — as an important example of the center’s long history of throwing transparency and inclusion to the wayside and the exclusive manner in which they make decisions.

The community member’s edited comments below.

On helping the center find new space:

When the Center was looking for a space after they were given notice to vacate Central Ave. I contacted them and wanted to see if I could help them find a new property. When I found out what they needed, I then put a real estate deal together. This is for the retail location where Green with Envy is now. I personally hate when non-profits hit me up for money and I believe a center should be able to pay for itself. So I figured out what was missing: a reason to go to the center.

I felt like if the center had a coffee shop/bar incorporated or attached as a common area to meet people, it would give people a reason to be exposed to the center. So I found a coffee shop with multiple locations in Charlotte that was interested in leasing space if it was next to the center.

I had the listing for the Green with Envy store. So I talked to the owners and they agreed to sell at set price and give the center 20 percent back at closing, which was needed to get the deal done. The coffee shop I had lined up was going to pay $4,000 a month in rent. Which means we could have had a center with huge frontage, where you enter into a courtyard with a coffee shop/bar, then to the side there were the office meeting spaces, which at the time they were leasing to some other groups. All told, the center would have had to pay about $500 a month toward the mortgage and that’s it. The coffee shop would have paid the rest.

On the response from the board:

The board when I presented it, had no business sense. They told me they spent over $100,000 upfitting Central Ave. location for a three-year lease, because “the rental rate was cheap.” But, when I told them to divide that 100,000 by 36 months of occupancy, they were paying more than the Bank of America tower. They had another broker that came in and presented stuff, and they went with the Music Factory. I washed my hands and lost all respect, even though I had a bank willing to do the deal for them for the building purchase.

On the board’s composition and attitude, center’s mission:

I asked why the board was so small. I think it was like 5 people at the time. An older lady involved on the board told me they didn’t want to have other people join the board because then it would be harder to get anything done. [Note: The chair of the board at the time was Denise Palm-Beck.]

They had NO business people with ANY common sense, at that time. I wanted to try to bring the community into it and make the center a real estate owner. That way, they would have an asset and they could then do campaigns to raise money to pay off the debt quicker, or they could just sit back and let the coffee shop pay the mortgage and then have a $700,000 piece of real estate.

I felt like it was a small group of people that wanted to be important, yet had no idea how to become important. Even back on Central Ave. they had no purpose. Personally, the only thing I believe it has been doing right is free HIV testing, even though it’s the health department that actually implements that. Other than that, I don’t understand it’s purpose. Never have.

UPDATE: Center will host ‘open forum’ on Dec. 4, 7 p.m. More info…

Archive: All coverage of the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte

4 Responses to “Source says Charlotte LGBT center rejected building purchase, board membership was purposefully kept small and exclusive”
  1. Jas says:

    Ah, more remnants from the Denise era (error). It’s a shame the LGBT center board has not learned from that yet.

  2. David Lari says:

    I was on the Board during that time. I don’t remember if I was present when this plan was presented or not. However, there was no way in hell the Center could have gotten a loan at that time. Our finances were a mess. There are things that this community member said that were true. Denise kept the Board small on purpose, though I only found that out later.

    The mystery real estate agent also made some false statements, however. There were two businessmen on the Board, including someone who continues to run a business today, and another from the banking sector. I feel that many of his statements are personal attacks he is making because his plan (which was not viable) was not adopted. Regardless of his motives, he is factually incorrect.

    I thought it was a mistake to move to the Music Factory. I wanted to move actually, to the location where the Center is now. We had few viable options and we needed to move quickly because our rent at the old space was going to more than double. I can’t speak for Denise’s motives. But I can say that the other members of the Board were very dedicated to helping this community, and the Center. We put in many hours and did the hard things we had to do to save the Center. We had to make a choice. Given the local political climate at the time, we chose to keep the Center a physical space, rather than to go to a virtual community center. It would have been quite a blow to the community to lose that physical presence. People forget how much the political climate has changed in just the last 5 years.

    I appreciate your efforts Matt. This discussion can only make things better, but I feel that we made the right choice at the time. And I feel that the Center should be a physical space now as well. But it IS time for the Center to go to the next level. The Center needs to be more open on the finances. And they need to build a community.

    Sadly, they have lost a lot of great Board members lately. My understanding is that there is one ‘rotten apple’ on the Board, who has driven off the others. I would hate for all of our past efforts to go to waste because of this. We shall see.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] Source says Charlotte LGBT center rejected building purchase, board membership was purposefully kept…, Nov. 11, 2013 […]

  2. […] One, in particular, shared with  me a past experience regarding a potential center building purchase and purposeful efforts to keep center board membership numbers low and exclusive. See that feedback here. […]

Leave A Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.