CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As qnotes reported on Aug. 10, MeckPAC has had a difficult time maintaining board members over the past few years. The organization was founded in 1998 in a unified effort to fight anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and policies in the Queen City, but our investigation into its recent mismanagement and suspicious spending by the organization’s leadership left many wondering if its demise was inevitable.
Mecklenburg LGBTQ, known as MeckPAC or Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee, had its active status terminated by the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement on Feb. 13.
Community members called for an audit, release of financial documents and for Matt Comer, the organization’s former chair, to step down. Comer immediately resigned, and the two remaining board members soon followed. But first, they appointed a transitional board of directors to include William Loftin as the interim chair, Nate Turner as interim vice-chair and Richard Grimstad as interim treasurer.
“They were willing to dissolve the whole organization,” says Loftin, who sees the need for MeckPAC to survive.
Following our report, former board member Emily Plauché was in contact with the state and has been working with the three to resolve the filings. Plauché originally left the MeckPAC board in 2018. According to Loftin, past board members have turned over a deluge of documents, but Grimstad is still waiting on additional receipts to complete a financial audit. “We want to be transparent as possible,” says Loftin. Comer met the three at Wells Fargo on Aug. 21, and Grimstad is currently the only person with access to the bank account.
With that transparency in mind, a community meeting was scheduled for Aug. 15, and a post on the organization’s Facebook page announced the interim board. Plauché and Ryan Morrice facilitated the virtual Zoom meeting which lasted two and a half hours, according to Loftin. More than 20 people attended.
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In an article written for Princeton University’s Activist Graduate School, co-creator of Occupy Wall Street and the school’s Program Director, Micah White, describes the moment those words by Audre Lorde were first uttered. “Speaking of her experiences as a Black lesbian feminist, she derided the then-burgeoning feminist academia for its heterosexual white bias.” Her penned phrase has been leveraged in many debates and for some, it adequately represents the prevalence of infighting and discrimination that continues in LGBTQ community organizations.
The meeting in August left many, including Loftin, feeling discouraged. He says that he and Turner felt personally attacked and that there seemed to be a focus on disqualifying them. Other members of the community have expressed similar concerns about the response. “This is why people, especially people of color, are not involved in the LGBT community of Charlotte,” says Loftin.
Some on the call even suggested a different person take over as transitional leader — something that Loftin described as an experience all too familiar, being a Black gay man. To him, it seemed that the conversation was racially motivated especially when only he and Turner, who is also Black, were singled out. The fact is that the three stepped up to help because they were asked. “None of us want to stay on the organization long term,” says Loftin. “We just want to help get it viable and we have had the experience of doing that.”
Loftin and Grimstad have both helped with similar transitions in Charlotte. Loftin was chair of Charlotte Black Pride (formerly Charlotte Black Gay Pride) starting in 2012 and helped the organization regain its non-profit status a year later. Grimstad, a CPA, helped Charlotte Pride when it separated from the now-defunct LGBT Community Center of Charlotte in 2012. Turner is a former LGBTQ Democrats of North Carolina board member and officer.
When pointing out the trepidation and conspiracies that occurred after the recent crisis, Loftin also hopes that it can provide an opportunity for the community to grow from the experience. “We need to just look at how we are as a community at this time,” he says. “How do we have these things in place where people can do certain things and take advantage of certain organizations? And, there’s no one watching. Why was this organization allowed to be almost nonexistent for two years and nobody cared about it until this happened?”
Loftin confirmed that documents have yet to be filed with the State Board of Elections — something they are not authorized to do. They are continuing to work with Plauché to complete the necessary steps. A statement on the organization’s Facebook page from Aug. 3 suggested that the former board members completed these filings. Loftin says they discovered that was not true.
He is creating two advisory committees to get MeckPAC running again. Turner will lead a group focused on policies and procedures and Grimstad will oversee a financial review and reporting committee. The main goal will be to determine what can be done now to resolve the organization’s status and then put in safeguards for the future. “At this point, we want the organization to be viable, but we cannot move forward until those (reports) are submitted,” he says. “Technically the organization does not exist to the State Board of Elections.”
In such a pivotal election year, one question remains. Can MeckPAC meet the needs of local LGBTQ people and engage with voters in some way that help build confidence in the organization again? Loftin believes that the conversation can still happen, even if they are not able to do endorsements. “There’s too much at stake for us to be caught up in fighting each other.”