Time Out Youth: Adding insult to injury

Staff Editorial

[Note: Editor Matt Comer was not involved in the writing of this editorial. — Assoc. Ed.]

Since its founding in 1991, Time Out Youth (TOY) has been one of the Charlotte LGBT community’s most important organizations and one of its finest resources. Thousands of LGBT and questioning youth have been guided through the challenging process of coming out and growing up during the agency’s 13 years of operation.

Because the mission of TOY is so vital, people pay attention when there are rumblings of trouble within the agency. When those rumblings turn into air raid sirens, as they have the last few months, a full investigation is warranted. This is what we have attempted to do with this issue’s cover story.

We already knew the allegations because we were regularly fielding calls from former TOY interns, volunteers, youth members and others. They wanted to share their concerns about the direction of the agency under the leadership of CEO Janine K. Eustache.

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What we needed for balance was an official response from the board of directors of TOY about some key, very specific allegations. To that end, we sent written questions to the board and asked them to address the points.

Unfortunately, what we received in return was a bob-and-weave press release that only deigned to answer one of our questions — and even then only the most benign aspect of that multi-part question was addressed: Eustache’s professional and educational background.

The board dismissed all of the concerns in a single sweeping paragraph, that states in part, “After speaking both with other individuals present for the incidents cited and with Janine Eustache, we have found nothing that we believe substantiates these allegations.”

At press time, none of our numerous sources for this story had been contacted by the board as part of its investigation.

In another paragraph the board employed what can only be seen as a hoary debate technique to deflect from the real issues. They attacked our integrity.

“These allegations and this inquiry are particularly troubling to the Board because the editor of Q-Notes participates in our programs claiming status as a 22-year old (sic) youth. While we currently serve youth ages 13-23, it appears to us that he may have misrepresented himself and may have used the organization as a journalist to develop contacts for this story because of his personal opinions about the organization.”

Editor Matt Comer “may have misrepresented himself” as what? A 22-year-old? Male? Gay? Certainly not about the fact that he works at Q-Notes — he shared this information during his first meeting. (I should note that Comer says he also discussed his work with Eustache at the time of their introduction. She allegedly commented that she was not familiar with Q-Notes.)

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The board’s “stealth journalism” claim is ridiculous — but its ridiculousness pales beside the assertion that this is somehow about Comer’s “personal opinions about the organization.”

I guess this is how the board thinks this Mission: Impossible went down: Comer got himself hired as the editor of Q-Notes in August 2007, moved to Charlotte a month later, attended his first TOY group meeting a few weeks after that and subsequently built the organization’s website at no cost — all in an insidious effort to bring down the organization.

Really? The board thought this insulting non-responsive response was the right way to handle this situation. That alone speaks volumes.

The work that TOY is charged with is too important for the board to simply circle the wagons like this when there are clearly problems in the agency that need to be addressed.

All of us — the board, this newspaper, the LGBT community at large, donors, volunteers — must work together, the way we are each best equipped, to ensure that the organization remains available and healthy.

Our allegiance has to be with the youth who need this critical resource above anything or anyone else.

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Posted by David Stout

David Stout is the associate editor of QNotes. He can be reached at editor2@goqnotes.com.