Charlotte LGBT center re-opens closed meetings, says it may close in February

Board chair releases statement, other bylaws changes on members, voting rights expected

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: January 22, 2014 in News

lgbtcentercharlotteCHARLOTTE, N.C. — The LGBT Community Center of Charlotte announced Wednesday morning that it is on the verge of closure as it attempted to clarify its intentions in new bylaws it released this week.

Center Chair Roberta Dunn said in a letter published to the group’s website that it may close at the end of February.

“Without continued financial support from the community and corporate partners, the center will close at the end of February,” Dunn wrote.

Dunn also clarified several points of the center’s new bylaws, which underwent several changes following a Dec. 4 town hall meeting, at which 100 people attended, where concerns over openness, transparency and board accountability were discussed. The town hall was planned in response to several commentaries from this writer at his personal blog in November.

Though the center originally voted to open board meetings to the public, it’s revised bylaws released on Jan. 19 only opened full board meetings to center members. The group has also adopted a membership structure, with annual dues ranging from $24-$240 annually. The center hopes the new member fees and new sponsorship levels will help support the center past February.

New revised bylaws, adopted Jan. 21, and released on Wednesday clarify previous restrictions opening meetings only to members and re-opens board meetings to the full public.

“One of the changes made to the bylaws involved opening the Center’s Board meetings to the community,” Dunn wrote. “In describing this, we used the word ‘membership’ when we should have clearly stated that all Board meetings will be open to the entire community. Upon hearing the concerns of the community in how this read, the Board voted and changed the bylaws to reflect our original intention: that all Board meetings are to be open for the entire community (no membership required). We apologize for this mistake and understand that it was a big error on our part. We hope now it is clearly understood that board meetings are open to everyone.”

Among other clarification, Dunn said membership would never be required for participation in center events or programming. She also noted the board’s intention in creating a 24-hour comment notification requirement for a new 15-minute open comment period at each monthly board meeting.

“For individuals who would like to speak during these 15 minute sessions, we are asking that you submit notification that you would like to speak within 24 hours of the scheduled meeting,” Dunn wrote. “There have been some concerns over the Board controlling who can and cannot speak during this time. Please note that everyone who submits a request to speak will be given the opportunity to speak and will not be overlooked. We are asking for 24 hours of advance notification so that we may organize a list of speakers and make sure everyone who wants a chance to speak gets that opportunity.”

Dunn’s statement on Wednesday did not address several other controversial changes and concerns, including the right of members to vote. Currently, members can only vote on matters when the center board of directors decides to poll the membership. Members do not have the right to elect any officers or members of the board. Members do not have the right to approve changes or amendments to the bylaws.

Patrice Shannon, chair of the center’s public relations committee, said the board will be considering additional revisions to the bylaws this week.

Shannon also noted that a new membership drive will help to support the center, which is also planning a Feb. 8 “Back to the Block” event to raise funds for the organization.

Click here to read Dunn’s full letter on the center’s website, or read it below in its entirety.

Click here to read Monday’s story regarding concerns over other bylaws changes.

Letter from LGBT Community Center of Charlotte Chair Roberta Dunn

January 22, 2014

[Ed. Note — The following is reproduced without edits or changes. Please note the "November Town Hall meeting" occurred on Dec. 4, 2013.]

There have been some misunderstandings surrounding the recent bylaw changes announced by the Community Center Board last week. I want to clarify a few issues regarding the bylaws and membership program in an effort to rectify any unintended misunderstandings. Since the November Town Hall meeting, the Community Center Board has been working to address some of the concerns that were brought to our attention. This included opening up Board meetings to the general community, instituting a membership program and creating a comprehensive rental policy. The amended bylaws that were made public last week were meant to address these issues, create greater transparency and foster community trust. However, in an effort to produce these bylaws in a timely manner there was misused wording that led to confusion among the community.

One of the changes made to the bylaws involved opening the Center’s Board meetings to the community. In describing this, we used the word “membership” when we should have clearly stated that all Board meetings will be open to the entire community. Upon hearing the concerns of the community in how this read, the Board voted and changed the bylaws to reflect our original intention: that all Board meetings are to be open for the entire community (no membership required). We apologize for this mistake and understand that it was a big error on our part. We hope now it is clearly understood that board meetings are open to everyone.

At these Board meetings, the community will have 15 minutes to bring issues or areas of concern to the Board. We created this time so that we are able to get direct insight from what the community needs and what issues are concerning them. The plan is for the Board to hear individual statements and take these concerns into the “new business” portion of the Board agenda so we can discuss how to address them. Our goal is to address community statements by the next Board meeting. For individuals who would like to speak during these 15 minute sessions, we are asking that you submit notification that you would like to speak within 24 hours of the scheduled meeting. There have been some concerns over the Board controlling who can and cannot speak during this time. Please note that everyone who submits a request to speak will be given the opportunity to speak and will not be overlooked. We are asking for 24 hours of advance notification so that we may organize a list of speakers and make sure everyone who wants a chance to speak gets that opportunity.

Concerning membership: no one is or ever will be required to have a membership to participate in Board meetings, community events, or Center programming. We established supporting membership as a direct result of comments made at the November Town Hall meeting, and because of the financial state of the Community Center. Without continued financial support from the community and corporate partners, the center will close at the end of February. The newly announced membership program has 3 membership levels that fit different budgets. Supporting members can choose to support annually or monthly for as little as $2 per month. This membership drive is extremely important to the sustainment of the center. I am asking everyone in our LGBTQ Community and our allies to support this membership drive.

The Center has and will continue to provide a safe meeting space at no cost for LGBTQ groups that open all meetings to the community, are not part of an established organization, and that seek to enrich the community through their efforts. There are many groups and programs that currently meet at the Center and provide phenomenal support to our community. We are taking on an initiative to help foster these programs by bringing them on under the umbrella of the Community Center. By doing this we can better partner to build growth and awareness of these great programs.

For LGBTQ businesses and organizations (both for profit and non-profit) that are holding events at the Center, we are asking them to become supporting sponsors. This membership is $100 annually or $8.30 per month and includes the use of monthly meeting space in one of the upstairs rooms. This will help sustain the center and instill a sense of responsibility and ownership in groups that meet here. We have also created rental fees for individuals, groups, businesses or organizations that would like to use the space for events. These fees are the same for all parties, though supporting members have the benefit of a 50% discount on Center rentals.

For 10 years the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte has been a safe haven for our community, fostering growth in individuals and allowing people to express themselves freely for who they are. I hope through the membership drive and upcoming fundraiser (Back to the Block) the Center can get the support it needs to continue this work. This is our Community Center and so I am asking if you believe in the Center and believe in enriching our community, that you support our Center.

Once again I apologize for any misunderstandings surrounding the recent bylaw changes.

Thank you.

Roberta Dunn

Chair
LGBT Community Center of Charlotte