Anti-DADT group OutServe-SLDN in turmoil as E.D. faces putsch

Bilerico and Buzzfeed reported this morning that Allyson Robinson, the executive director of the “gays in the military” group OutServe-SLDN, has been removed by the organization’s board of directors.

In fact, my sources tell me that Robinson has not been fired, nor has she resigned, but that a movement was brewing to remove her as executive director of the organization when the story went public.

Robinson is the first transgender head of a major national LGBT organization, and has been in that position for less than year.

Allyson-Robinson-sldn

While the details of this story are still somewhat murky, it seems that there was a movement underway by some in the board of directors to remove Robinson for a reason yet unknown, but possibly tied to the resignation of longtime Chief Financial Officer Francisco Ramirez last month.  More on Ramirez’ resignation, below.

Interestingly, Chris Geidner at Buzzfeed has information suggesting that former OutServe-SLDN board member Sue Fulton, who just resigned, was opposed to Robinson’s forced resignation. But an email obtained by AMERICAblog seems to suggest that Fulton was involved in the effort to force Robinson out.

OutServe-SLDN board member Sue Fulton

First, Chris Geidner‘s reporting on Fulton’s role in the move against Robinson:

In an email obtained by BuzzFeed, however, Fulton emailed board co-chair Josh Seefried and board member Katie Miller on Sunday morning, providing some insight into the internal power struggle:

I was a member of the OS-SLDN Board yesterday, and I did NOT vote to ask Allyson to resign. Neither did Shannon. Matthew Phelps and Beth Schissel did not have the opportunity to vote either. Did you even ask for a roll call? On a decision like this?

You cannot characterize this publicly as a “unanimous” vote of the Board. If you do so, Board members will speak publicly to deny that they voted for it. The details of who was in the room and who wasn’t when you rushed this vote through will not support your case.

BuzzFeed also has learned that Fulton had attempted to get the board to hold off on asking for Robinson’s immediate resignation, seeking a two-week delay. The attempt was unsuccessful.

But in an email from Fulton to the SLDN board of directors and its military advisory council, dated yesterday, June 22, 2013, Fulton appears to be one of the board members helping to coordinate the removal of Robinson:

From: Sue Fulton
Date: Sat, Jun 22, 2013
Subject: Re: motion

I propose the establishment of a Committee that we would delegate to meet with Allyson with the following proposal:

“This isn’t working out, we’d like to work together on a transition plan that has you resigning…”

The rest of the email lays out a timetable for her departure and makes clear that should Robinson not accept a peaceful transition, she would be asked to leave immediately.

Fulton adds in the comments to this story, below, the following:

The second email from me was an effort to craft a motion that gave Allyson until July 12, rather than the motion on the floor that wanted her terminated immediately. I would not have wanted the email to get out. It was part of the agonizing process of trying to keep the Board from acting recklessly. I failed.

Perhaps.  But this line from Fulton’s email does not sound entirely like someone opposed to Robinson leaving:

“This isn’t working out, we’d like to work together on a transition plan that has you resigning.”

Perhaps it was a move to save Robinson, giving her troops more time to regroup, or perhaps it was a move to ease her departure by giving her a few weeks rather than terminating her immediately.  That still remains unclear.

Resignation of OutServe-SLDN CFO Francisco Ramirez

Interestingly, one month ago, OutServe-SLDN’s chief financial officer Francisco (Pancho) Ramirez resigned.  Ramirez had been with the organization since 2005.
Francisco-RamirezI hear that Ramirez’ resignation was related to the move against Allyson Robinson.  Robinson reportedly wanted Ramirez gone, and he resigned because of Robinson.  Though it remains unclear whether Robinson had cause to want Ramirez’ removal – maybe she did, maybe she didn’t.

Here is Ramirez’ email of resignation.  Note that Ramirez thanks numerous leaders at OutServe-SLDN, including past executive directors Dixon Osbourne and Aubrey Sarvis, but he does not mention current ED Allyson Robinson:

From: Francisco Ramirez
Date: Tue, May 21, 2013 at 12:08 PM
Subject: Resignation

Dear Friends,

It is with a heavy heart that I tender my resignation effective today. As the Chief Financial Officer of OutServe-SLDN, it has been a pleasure and privilege to work with all of you over the last 8 years. Above all, I value my small contribution to the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as one of the best experiences of my life. I have learned a tremendous amount from each of the SLDN Board and MAC Members, Dixon Osborne, Aubrey Sarvis, and all of my colleagues.

But, the time has come to move on. I have not been involved in nor have I agreed with many of the decisions that have been taken lately, and this is a situation that has become untenable for me.

I still believe that the institution is worthwhile saving, and that it has a role to play in the fight for LGBT equality.

I wish all of you the best.

Sincerely,

Pancho

Gay/trans organizations have a long history of problems between their boards and executive directors.  Just a few weeks ago, the gay head of GLAAD resigned after only one year on the job – and he had replaced another gay ED that was forced out.  Sometimes ED’s are forced out unfairly, and sometimes they’re not.  Clearly there will be more to this story.  Stay tuned.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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