Charlotte LGBT center issues misleading response, leaves several questions unanswered, but says it will host town hall meeting


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

Archive: All coverage of the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte

After more than a week of commentary and suggestions, along with building community pressure, the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte issued a public response today to several concerns, though many questions and concerns remain unanswered or unaddressed. Additionally, the center announced that it will hold an open community town hall meeting likely on Nov. 27, 7 p.m., though that date doesn’t seem definite.

The response, written by board chair Roberta Dunn, responds to several concerns I’ve raised, but ignores others.

And, unsurprisingly, it is a common, knee-jerk, blame-the-messenger type of response that fails to take much, if any, responsibility for the organization’s and its leaders’ own mistakes, most notably the way in which it has operated in secrecy and with exclusivity, causing many community members to be shunned or pushed away from center involvement.

LGBT center’s response, via chair Roberta Dunn

Because Dunn’s statement contains several inaccuracies, the statement from the center has been broken up so that I can address the individual comments as they are stated. The center’s remarks are in “blockquotes” and are indented from my remarks. A full version of the statement follows at the end of the post.

Over the past week Matt Comer has been posting on his blog his opinions about the LGBT Community Center. As Chair of the Community Center Board of Trustees, I am disappointed that Comer did not meet with me or interview me and other Board members before posting his personal opinion.

I have discussed many of these problems with Dunn and other center leaders, including former chairs Denise Palm-Beck, John Stotler and Scott Coleman, over several years. To say I have not privately addressed these issues is an outright lie. Specifically, I and others, have asked repeatedly this year for a copy of the center’s bylaws. They were never provided and were not released to the public until yesterday. The posts over the past week have included more than opinion — they have also included facts and figures, mostly gleaned from records already open to public inspection.

The Board and I are delighted that Comer is pleased that Charlotte has a Community Center. However, in comparing other Community Centers to Charlotte’s, he leaves out several facts and includes other information that is disingenuous and misleading.

First, Comer provided a chart comparing the different occupancy rates between our Center and Raleigh’s, but did not compare the two sites. So I will. Our rent in our new Center at 2508 N. Davidson Street in NoDa is approximately twice the size of our previous home in the North Carolina Music Factory, so our price per square foot was cut almost in half. Why did the LGBT Community Center Charlotte move to the new location? We moved because we were urged to do so by our community, and for several reasons: community feedback revealed that the Music Factory location was not accessible by public transportation, was not near the majority of the Charlotte LGBT community, did not have enough meetings rooms, and had very limited parking.

We currently pay $41,580 per year, for 4,586 square feet of space, which equals to $9.10/per square foot. Raleigh’s Center pays $21,596 per year, for 1,690 square feet, which equals to $12.87/per square foot.

The issue isn’t about how much the center is paying per square foot. The issue is that an overwhelming majority, as much as 60 percent in recent years, of the center’s outgoing expenses is being used on occupancy expenses. I outlined that argument in detail in my first post. Dunn falsely claims I didn’t compare the two spaces. I did. You can read my original post here, which includes a chart on occupancy expenses AND a chart comparing the size of the two physical sites.

Comer also fails to mention that our Center lost funding from Charlotte Pride (then called “Pride Charlotte”) in 2012. Charlotte Pride had long been established as a fund-raiser for the Center. Loss of that income greatly impacted the Center’s cash on hand and raised property percentage rate. Pride was the Center’s major fund-raising program, which was by design when we worked with Jim Yarbrough and others to save the event several years ago. Pride lost money in 2012, then decided to not be part of the Center and created a new 501(c)3 for 2013.

First, a disclosure: I was a Pride Charlotte volunteer in 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and served on the new, independent board for Charlotte Pride in 2013.

The then-Pride Charlotte did not lose money. In fact, the center retained a significant amount of money from Pride operations. The center’s bylaws say they keep records and books, so if any person doubts the veracity of my statement, I encourage you to ask the center to open its books and show you its accounting ledgers and other records. Looking merely at their most recent Form 990 will do you no good; based on information that was freely available to committee members at the time, the 2012 activities of Pride Charlotte were grossly misstated on the 2012 Form 990.

Further, to be clear: I was not initially in favor of splitting from the center, and worked with my fellow Pride volunteers to find a way to stay affiliated with the center. But, after months of attempted conversations to resolve differences I eventually came to support the split, primarily because it became clear these differences could not be overcome.

The center board, too, supported the move to establish an independent Charlotte Pride, as indicated in their unanimous vote to support the split, as recorded in the minutes from their Jan. 2, 2013, board meeting and by the public statement they released on the same day. See screenshot below (click to enlarge).

 

Having a Center that can accommodate fund-raising was a necessity to continue services for Charlotte’s LGBT community. As a well-known leader in the Charlotte LGBT Community, Comer should be behind the Center for the events we are now creating, not attacking the work of our volunteers and Board.

I have stated repeatedly that I support the center and want it to succeed. I have even publicly argued against some community members who have said the center should shut down and a new organization should be formed. It is sad that Dunn would paint me as merely a critic, when I have attempted addressing these concerns and problems with the center for many years and when I have repeatedly provided solutions. If I offer criticism, it is constructive, not destructive. Dunn and the center board know this.

It’s also shameful that Dunn and the center board would attempt to silence other community members and their concerns by insinuating that constructive criticism constitutes an “attack.”

Comer’s blog provided two calendars, one for our Center and one for Raleigh’s, and with Charlotte’s only showing two events. As he is (or should be) very familiar with some of the ongoing programs of the Center, Comer should have known the calendar did not accurately reflect an inclusive list of the Center’s events. What he did was copy a form from our website that we recently rebuilt, so he knew this was an error and either should have asked our Director Glenn Griffin or myself for verification of the current events scheduled. Comer does make reference to this, but posting this incorrect information is disingenuous.
http://www.lgbtcharlotte.org/#!calendar/c5ir

Again, Dunn’s comments are false. As you can plainly see in my original post, I did provide details on other events hosted at the center. Regardless, my original point stands: Even their most up-to-date calendar pales in comparison to the calendar of events supported by the LGBT Center of Raleigh. The Charlotte center spends twice as much of your community money on a physical space that hosts less than half of the activities Raleigh does. That doesn’t seem balanced to me.

In 2011 the LGBT Community Center Charlotte had a part-time administrator (17 hours a week), and had not had a full-time director since 2008. This was before any of our current Board members were in place. In 2011, we hired a new administrator mid-year and had a goal to upgrade this position to full time within the year. This was accomplished with several performance pay increases, as well. After our move to NoDa in January, our full-time administrator was offered an outside position that better utilized his degrees and he took this opportunity with a very good recommendation from the Center. We interviewed numerous very qualified people for this position and ultimately hired a full-time Director of Operations with the goal of migrating to a staff structure that included an Executive Director and a part-time operations manager or administrator. This is where we are now, as we reinvent our overall programs.

Thank you, Dunn, for being open and transparent with the community about your organization’s plans. That is all I have ever asked.

The LGBT Community Center of Charlotte is now providing meeting space for local LGBT organizations and groups that were not possible before, with visibility and convenience in the NoDa building that was not possible at the Music Factory. Three locations in Plaza-Midwood refused to lease the Community Center space. The Board’s search committee did an excellent job finding us a new and better building at a lower rate per square foot than before that better meets the needs of the LGBT Community.

As a recent example of our facility use, we were able to provide MeckPAC meeting space to host over 34 interviews in this past County election period (this does not show on our calendar). In previous years these interviews would have been held in a non LGBT location such as Panera Bread.

The LGBT Community Center has long claimed its primary purpose is to “provide a space.” If this is their primary, core, missional purpose, why are they charging people to utilize their primary, core, missional purpose? To look at it another way: Time Out Youth’s  mission is to support youth. It raises funds to support youth; it applies for grants to support youth and collects money from donors to support youth. Given that “supporting youth” is Time Out Youth’s primary, core, missional purpose, how outrageous would it then be if Time Out Youth charged youth for access to support? Very.

Further, it should be noted that several community groups that should be using the center’s space are either actively seeking to meet elsewhere or have already been utilizing space elsewhere which is free.

The LGBT Community Center of Charlotte has proudly been open for over 10 years and has never had to close our doors to our community. We have continuously provided services and meeting space for the LGBT Community while serving as a resource for information pertinent to our community. When it was apparent that our former website was not functioning as well as we needed, our Operations Director led an effort to launch a more user-friendly site. We invite you to visit the site and the physical Center often, and we welcome and need your feedback and suggestions. For this the Board recommends an Open Forum at the Center on Wednesday, November 27 at 7:00 PM or a weekday in the first week of December.

Roberta Dunn
Board Chair

Dunn and her board need to set a definitive date for this town hall. Is it Nov. 27 or is it “a weekday in the first week of December”? Make the decision and calendar the date, create a Facebook event and create posters.

Questions unanswered by Dunn’s statement

Dunn’s statement leaves many questions directly asked of the center and many other concerns unaddressed, including:

  1. Why are center board meetings closed to the public? What is the purpose of this secrecy?
  2. Will the center change its bylaws and open their meetings to the public?
  3. How does the center propose to solve its funding problems and reduce the percentage of their total expenses (as high as 6o percent) they are currently spending on occupancy expenses like rent and utilities?
  4. If the center sees no problem with its unbalanced spending priorities, what defense or explanation can it offer to justify it, given that they also charge the community to use the very same space they ask donors and foundations to pay for.
  5. Does the center have any response — any response at all whatsoever — to the slew of community members and leaders who have expressed past negative experiences with the center, under both current and past leadership? Are they willing to acknowledge mistakes and apologize, or will they simply ignore these community voices?
  6. What is the current status of the center’s efforts to fix its expired charitable solicitation license? What assurances do community members and donors have that their money is being spent wisely when the center cannot adequately maintain the licensing required to solicit funds?

There are other concerns, as well, and future posts will delve into these concerns.

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

Archive: All coverage of the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte

Full statement from Dunn

The full statement from Dunn, without breaks for response and commentary:

Over the past week Matt Comer has been posting on his blog his opinions about the LGBT Community Center. As Chair of the Community Center Board of Trustees, I am disappointed that Comer did not meet with me or interview me and other Board members before posting his personal opinion.

The Board and I are delighted that Comer is pleased that Charlotte has a Community Center. However, in comparing other Community Centers to Charlotte’s, he leaves out several facts and includes other information that is disingenuous and misleading.

First, Comer provided a chart comparing the different occupancy rates between our Center and Raleigh’s, but did not compare the two sites. So I will. Our rent in our new Center at 2508 N. Davidson Street in NoDa is approximately twice the size of our previous home in the North Carolina Music Factory, so our price per square foot was cut almost in half. Why did the LGBT Community Center Charlotte move to the new location? We moved because we were urged to do so by our community, and for several reasons: community feedback revealed that the Music Factory location was not accessible by public transportation, was not near the majority of the Charlotte LGBT community, did not have enough meetings rooms, and had very limited parking.

We currently pay $41,580 per year, for 4,586 square feet of space, which equals to $9.10/per square foot. Raleigh’s Center pays $21,596 per year, for 1,690 square feet, which equals to $12.87/per square foot.

Comer also fails to mention that our Center lost funding from Charlotte Pride (then called “Pride Charlotte”) in 2012. Charlotte Pride had long been established as a fund-raiser for the Center. Loss of that income greatly impacted the Center’s cash on hand and raised property percentage rate. Pride was the Center’s major fund-raising program, which was by design when we worked with Jim Yarbrough and others to save the event several years ago. Pride lost money in 2012, then decided to not be part of the Center and created a new 501(c)3 for 2013.

Having a Center that can accommodate fund-raising was a necessity to continue services for Charlotte’s LGBT community. As a well-known leader in the Charlotte LGBT Community, Comer should be behind the Center for the events we are now creating, not attacking the work of our volunteers and Board.

Comer’s blog provided two calendars, one for our Center and one for Raleigh’s, and with Charlotte’s only showing two events. As he is (or should be) very familiar with some of the ongoing programs of the Center, Comer should have known the calendar did not accurately reflect an inclusive list of the Center’s events. What he did was copy a form from our website that we recently rebuilt, so he knew this was an error and either should have asked our Director Glenn Griffin or myself for verification of the current events scheduled. Comer does make reference to this, but posting this incorrect information is disingenuous.

http://www.lgbtcharlotte.org/#!calendar/c5ir
In 2011 the LGBT Community Center Charlotte had a part-time administrator (17 hours a week), and had not had a full-time director since 2008. This was before any of our current Board members were in place. In 2011, we hired a new administrator mid-year and had a goal to upgrade this position to full time within the year. This was accomplished with several performance pay increases, as well. After our move to NoDa in January, our full-time administrator was offered an outside position that better utilized his degrees and he took this opportunity with a very good recommendation from the Center. We interviewed numerous very qualified people for this position and ultimately hired a full-time Director of Operations with the goal of migrating to a staff structure that included an Executive Director and a part-time operations manager or administrator. This is where we are now, as we reinvent our overall programs.

The LGBT Community Center of Charlotte is now providing meeting space for local LGBT organizations and groups that were not possible before, with visibility and convenience in the NoDa building that was not possible at the Music Factory. Three locations in Plaza-Midwood refused to lease the Community Center space. The Board’s search committee did an excellent job finding us a new and better building at a lower rate per square foot than before that better meets the needs of the LGBT Community.

As a recent example of our facility use, we were able to provide MeckPAC meeting space to host over 34 interviews in this past County election period (this does not show on our calendar). In previous years these interviews would have been held in a non LGBT location such as Panera Bread.

The LGBT Community Center of Charlotte has proudly been open for over 10 years and has never had to close our doors to our community. We have continuously provided services and meeting space for the LGBT Community while serving as a resource for information pertinent to our community. When it was apparent that our former website was not functioning as well as we needed, our Operations Director led an effort to launch a more user-friendly site. We invite you to visit the site and the physical Center often, and we welcome and need your feedback and suggestions. For this the Board recommends an Open Forum at the Center on Wednesday, November 27 at 7:00 PM or a weekday in the first week of December.

Roberta Dunn
Board Chair

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

Archive: All coverage of the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte


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  1. […] after more than a week’s worth of public discussion, the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte issued a public response, via center board chair Roberta Dunn, to constructive criticism and suggestions they received from me regarding their operations, their […]



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