CHARLOTTE, N.C. — New leadership changes at Charlottte’s LGBT center this week prompted public questions Thursday afternoon over the process used to remove the organization’s now-former chair and install a new interim leader. The new controversy follows after the center came under intense scrutiny for financial mismanagement, transparency and leadership accountability earlier this year — including its near closure and several high-profile resignations from the board.
Ranzeno Frazier, who took over as the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte’s board chair on May 29, was removed as chair of the organization this Tuesday.
Frazier isn’t happy about the change and has said the decision was made behind his back.
The center’ s new leader said the correct processes were followed.
New interim Chair Judson Gee told qnotes Thursday morning that the decision was “unfortunate,” but necessary.
“Unfortunately, Ran was not the right person for the job,” Gee said. “I am very much used to cohesive leadership and one with direction, processes, deadlines and metrics. Unfortunately, Ran does not have that experience. Sometimes when we get overwhelmed as human beings, things can get out of control. I felt it time to step in and ask the board if, in fact, they felt as I did.”
Gee said other board members did feel similarly, a conclusion they came to after a conference call on Thursday, Oct. 9. They had originally planned to invite Frazier to join the conference call to discuss their concerns over his leadership, but instead decided to wait until the group’s next regularly scheduled board meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 14.
Frazier, though, learned about the conference call before being informed by the board. Though he had some prior conversations about his work and family commitments with other board members, learning of the phone conference was the first time Frazier said he became aware the board had formed a consensus.
“I guess I wasn’t moving quick enough for them,” Frazier told qnotes.
“From what I was told, they had a conference call last Thursday and decided it was best I step down as chair and that Jud would take over as interim chair,” Frazier added. “Instead of having a phone conversation without me, they could have had it with me. It would have been more respectful if they told me this is what they wanted to do.”
Gee said it was the board’s intention to inform Frazier of their plans to discuss his leadership at the Tuesday meeting.
“What happened was the word got out and Ran discovered that,” Gee said. “That was the fatal flaw on our part. We should have stuck to the original plan and that was to bring him in and tell him that night of our potential decision.”
Once Frazier learned about the conference call “on Friday or Saturday,” he emailed the board to learn more about it. Following the email, board members Nate Turner, Ashley Love and Edward McCray called Frazier and told them they had, in fact, met and would ask him to step down as chair, but remain on the board.
“They had a conversation about me stepping down as chair and wanted me to stay on the board in a different position,” Frazier said. “I asked what position, but they couldn’t tell me what position, what they wanted me to do or what assignment I would have.”
Gee insisted Frazier was told of the board’s intention to discuss the issue at the Tuesday meeting. Gee also said Frazier had indicated he would attend and that he was told he could potentially be removed as chair.
Frazier, though, said he told the board he wouldn’t be able to attend the meeting due to work restraints.
“It would have been the first meeting I’d ever missed as far as dealing with the board,” Frazier said.
But, Gee said the board wasn’t informed of Frazier’s inability to attend until an hour or so before the scheduled meeting.
“Ran was fully aware of it and chose not to come,” Gee said.
Frazier said the offer to remain on the board was one he couldn’t accept after feeling betrayed by the board.
“How can I be on a board or a committee with individuals I can’t trust and individuals who want me to stay on the board, but don’t know what they want me to do?” Frazier said.
Proper processes followed?
It’s unclear if the board properly followed the procedures set out in their bylaws for removing an board of trustees member. The bylaws state that a member can be “removed for good cause by a two-thirds vote to [sic] the Trustees present at a meeting called for that purpose, after allowing the Trustee to be heard with due notice.”
Gee said the processes were followed appropriately.
“We had a board meeting which Ran, still being chair, chose not to come to, even thought he knew we wanted to speak to him personally about the issue,” Gee said. “He did not come. He sent an email and said he would not step down and thought he could not be voted off. We reviewed the bylaws and clarified that and from what we know, we had the ability to that with a quorum.”
The decision, Gee said, was unanimous.
Current members of the board include Gee, Turner, McCray, and Love, as well as Jenny Richeson and John Dimier, a CPA who was recently appointed as the center’s treasurer. On Tuesday, the board also appointed Tamika Lewis as the group’s programs chair.
Former board member Clay Smith recently resigned from his position on Oct. 6.
“I appreciate the opportunity to serve and support my community provided by The Center, but feel that, personally, it just wasn’t a good fit,” Smith said in a statement posted online the day after his resignation.
Frazier came into the center’s top leadership position following months of controversy. At the time, Frazier, the center’s first African-American chair, also received racist threats and derogatory messages left by email and voice mail.
Frazier said he thought the group made progress under his tenure, including reductions in rent costs and a resolution to the center’s outstanding federal and state payroll tax debts.
“As chair, I tackled a lot of those situations,” Frazier said. “I feel that at the time when there was a lot of negative energy toward the center and the board, I was the only person on the board to step up. I was that person who took the blame and had the finger pointed at. I took that. I stood up when no one else wanted to do it.”
Frazier added: “I appreciate everyone helping me out in the community, everyone who has been with me through this journey.”
Group moves forward with help of former leader
Gee said Thursday the group plans on moving forward with a strategic plan, mending relationships in the community and gaining more sustainable funding.
Last month, the group received just shy of $10,000 in funding from the annual Farewell to Summer party. It is expecting to receive the remainder of a nearly $20,000 grant from the Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Fund after it meets certain benchmarks. Earlier this year, the fund gave the center $3,000 of the grant, with continued funding conditional upon improved performance. The fund has also set up an advisory board to assist the center with the counsel of several other community leaders, but that group was apparently seldom consulted as the center made changes this fall.
“We will be reaching out to the fund and taking help and advice,” Gee said. “Unfortunately, I don’t think we as a board on the leadership level took advantage of that and we will. We will take advantage of that.”
Gee also said the center has scheduled a board retreat for Nov. 2.
He plans on working the organization back to financial stability and sustainability.
“We must be economically viable and in order to be viable we have to get our finances under control,” Gee said, adding that he wants to introduce the board to new funding ideas.
The group will continue to seek grant funding, as well. Board member Ashley Love, whom Gee called a “very talented person,” is chairing the board’s grants committee. Gee also confirmed that former center vice-chair Bert Woodard, whose board term ended in June, is serving as a member of the grants committee. Woodard, at the time the center’s longest-serving board member, was among the group’s former leaders who came under the most public scrutiny after his public disagreement with former chair of the Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Fund, the center’s single-largest donor.
Woodard, a career PR professional, currently works as an employee for Gee.
The center is also searching for a new location. Its current space’s lease at 2508 N. Davidson St. will end in December. In the meantime, a local gym has taken possession of the facility’s first floor while the center utilizes the second floor’s three meeting rooms and other facilities. Additionally, the gym is paying the entire lease rate.
Gee said local realtor Kevin Levine — whom Gee said was a longtime friend and former Charlotte schoolmate — is assisting with the search for a new location.