Allyson Robinson announces resignation as ED of OutServe-SLDN

The embattled executive director of the largest “gays in the military” group, OutServe-SLDN, announced last night in an email that she’ll be resigning her post this coming Friday, July 12.  And former OutServe-SLDN board member Sue Fulton has weighed in, as well – see the bottom of this story.

We’ve been following this story since the news leaked a few weeks ago that OutServe-SLDN’s board was looking into possibly relieving Robinson of her position as ED of the organization.  At the time, no further information was available as to what was causing the schism.

Some suspected that the problem might relate to OutServe-SLDN’s financial situation.  The non-profit’s CFO, Francisco Ramirez, had resigned in May via a letter that praised the board of directors, the organization’s past executive directors (by name), but not Robinson.  In April, the board’s treasurer Tom Clark resigned.  And a month earlier, in March, David Hall, the development director, stepped down.

Allyson Robinson SLDN ED

Allyson Robinson,
executive director of OutServe-SLDN

Others, including a number of OutServe-SLDN chapter heads, suggested that Robinson was fired because she’s transgender, though they offered no explanation for why they raised that possibility.

Then one week later the other shoe dropped. We learned that OutServe-SLDN was in dire financial straits, and that the organization might be closing down its headquarters in Washington, DC as a result.

The news of OutServe-SLDN’s apparent bankruptcy didn’t stop Robinson’s defenders from calling for, and receiving, the head of board co-chair Josh Seefried, who they claimed was behind the move to remove Robinson.

What isn’t entirely clear, among other things, is how Seefried, as only one member of an 18 person board, could pose any threat to Robinson if his motivation was simply anti-trans animus, which Robinson’s defenders were alleging.  Nonetheless, Seefried stepped down from the board this past Monday in an effort to smooth the waters.

We now know, via Robinson’s email, below, that she is stepping down from her position as executive director as well. Robinson is currently on the board of directors, via her position as ED, a spot she will presumably lose when she resigns.  I’ve heard that there are some rumblings to put Robinson back on the board, which would seem premature as OutServe-SLDN has yet to tell anyone what actually happened.  At this point, we have no idea as to the culpability of Robinson, Seefried, or anybody else.  Which leaves a lot of unanswered questions, and doesn’t engender much faith in anyone moving forward.

Here’s Robinson’s resignation email announcement:

From Allyson Robinson:

Dear colleagues and friends,

I’m writing today to let you know that I’ll be stepping down from my role as Executive Director as of thisFriday, July 12. I am committed, through our organization’s critical period of transition and beyond, to contributing my strengths in any way I can toward the accomplishment our shared mission of full equality for LGBT service members, veterans, and their families.

I have said from the earliest days of my tenure our best future lies in entrusting this organization, its legacy, and its future to our members – to you. I am unequivocally confident that you can build a future for our cause that is worthy of the great sacrifices you have made and of the legacy of winning leadership you’ve built for the organization and the movement. You are today, and have always been, our future – and that future is bright.

Many of you have also heard me say, again and again, that it is an honor to serve. It has been my highest honor to lead and serve the troops of OutServe-SLDN and their families, and I offer you my deepest, most sincere gratitude for entrusting this honor to me. Your example inspires me, and has inspired a nation, to place service above self for a greater good. I look forward to continuing to serve alongside you in the cause of full equality for LGBT service members, veterans, and their families – and for all those they defend.

Yours in the fight,
Allyson

UPDATE: Former OutServe-SLDN board member Sue Fulton has weighed in in the comments below this post, and I think her comments and my response are useful to fleshing out this story further:

Sue-Fulton-SLDNMy response:

Sue, your animus towards Seefried is clear, but your logic isn’t. Let’s walk through what you allege:

1. Seefried is supposedly to blame for all of this, but the only proof we have is an email from you calling for the board to get rid of Allyson Robinson because “this isn’t working out.” I appreciate that you now say that you called for Robinson to be forced out as some effort to help her, but the fact remains that the only proof we have of anyone trying to force Robinson out points to you. And I quote:

From: Sue FultonDate: Sat, Jun 22, 2013Subject: 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…”

2. You talk of an inexperienced board. But I thought half the board was SLDN, and half was OutServe, and you only just merged 9 months ago. How was SLDN’s board inexperienced after 20 years of being in existence? And OutServe’s had a board before it merged too, for two+ years. So in fact, all of you were experienced.

But, let’s assume you’re right. If everyone was so inexperienced, how was Seefried so “experienced” that he bamboozled 17 other board members, when Seefried’s only 26 years old or so himself? One would think he’d be the least experienced at that age.

3. And I’m still not understanding how this worked. Two other board members, along with you, were allegedly opposed to Robinson leaving. Seefried supposedly was in favor and running the cabal of one. That’s 3 to his one 1. Those sound like good odds. But we’re to believe that 15 other board members were “scared” into firing Robinson because Seefried wanted more media attention, and somehow a 26 year old kid was able to outmaneuver 17 other people with far more experience in life and politics, especially the SLDN half of the board. That just don’t ring credible.

Nor is it credible that, as you now allege, former and active duty US military personnel were such push-overs that a 26 year old could force them to fire an ED because he’s not getting enough media attention. In fact, from my experience, military personnel are quite the opposite of pushovers.

4. As for your allegation that no one involved had ever alleged that Robinson was fired for being trans, I quote the memo/statement your coalition of chapter heads supporting Robinson sent to the board:

The reputation of OutServe-SLDN has now been irreparably damaged by the lack of communication immediately following the initial leak and the failure to directly address the question – “Was she fired because she is transgender?”

5. Now you’re alleging that the financial disaster happened because of Seefried’s alleged action in trying to get Allyson off the board three weeks ago. So, OutServe-SLDN wasn’t in dire financial straits until the past few weeks after your email calling for the board to oust Robinson went public? That’s your argument – that OutServe-SLDN was financially sound until just 2 weeks ago? Then why did the CFO quit in May, and why did his letter of resignation thank the board, the past EDs, but not Robinson? Why did the board treasurer quit a few months ago? Why did OutServe-SLDN’s development director (aka fundraiser) quit a few months ago? The entire financial leadership quit in the past few months, but we’re to believe that everything was fine on the financial front until two weeks ago? Really?

6. And finally, for someone who simply must have media attention, Seefried has been quiet throughout this entire affair. You however have been everywhere.

 


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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    - I think we can safely conclude there are any number of non-disclosure
    agreements in play, which is why the people at the center of the mess
    aren’t speaking clearly about what really happened.

  • dave3137

    John has repeatedly noted that nobody who is actually “in the know” on these issues is stating the facts behind them. What we have are some politic resignations, and a whole lot of pretty transparent personal animus, assaults on character and motivation, and other “conduct unbecoming” that can only do further harm to what used to be two extraordinary organizations.

    In a related matter, I wonder if anyone has insight into my theory (and it’s ONLY a theory!!) that reduced contributions were at least partly a result of a perceived lack of urgency following repeal of DADT.

  • Thom Allen

    It may be time for OutServe-SLDN to just play “Taps” and call it quits. The financial ruin, terrible publicity, infighting, instability and lack of transparency may have done the organization in.

    In the past, I donated to them, signed petitions for them, posted on social media for them, etc. Based on what I’ve read, I very much doubt that I’d do so again. It may be best that another organization be formed to continue what this one has started, but that it avoids reconstituting itself as the Phoenix of OutServe-SLDN. That is, begin from scratch not using any of the former board members or employees of the original.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Yes, Dad. I promise. And with a full tank of gas.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Sure, just make sure you return it before midnight with no dents.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Oh that’s a good point

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    I would tend to agree. Some very clear, though unsubstantiated, allegations have been made against Seefried, and now the entire board. One hopes there’s proof behind such a definitive naming of names or we risk entering libel territory.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Next

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    And as I mentioned below, there’s still the “no anti-discrimination law or rules” issue. A gay or lesbian person can still be denied promotion, given crap assignments, or even harassed and not be able to cite anti-gay discrimination as justification for intervention and redress.

  • Mark_in_MN

    An inexperienced board? What does the experience or inexperience of the board, or individual members experoence on boards, have to do with it? The suggestion brings to mind a number of board members as little deer caught in the headlights who are brand new at participating in organizations and decision making. But, if that’s the case, why is a significant national organization appointing such green activists to its national board of directors? Have they not even had leadership in local organizations? But the suggestion seems worse than that, actually, but that the problem is people so inexperienced at life that they are so easily hoodwinked by political machinitions and covert agendas. Or maybe the statement should be corrected so that it says what is meant rather than leave inaccurate innuendo intact. If the characterization is accurate, then further explanation if just how the board is inexperienced and how that plays into all this is more than in order.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Good to hear from you, Tom. So do you have any idea what really happened? I mean, you’ve said you’re no longer on the board, but perhaps you have some insights or sources that can tell us outsiders the real story?

    Seems like there’s so much speculation and hyperbole, the truth would be a relief to learn.

  • David Small

    Of note: Sue and Allyson are buddies. I imagine Sue’s super public outrage is more reactionary to her screw up of sending that email to God and everybody. Funny that nobody, including Sue, refutes that Allyson needed to go. My bet is that it was a unanimous board vote with the exception of the 3 people who weren’t in the room as per some previous article. Sue’s Fred is shot! As for the chapter leaders calling for Josh’s resignation… Since when do glorified party planners at the local level get a say in how an organization is run at the national level?

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Well, and OutServe-SLDN obviously still has the “trans in the military” issue to address, which is important, but I think it will be interesting to see if a traditionally gay group can become a de facto trans group, and survive with the same level of donors, community enthusiasm etc.

  • Indigo

    That makes sense. I’m beginning to think you’re right in wondering whether this might be fallout from the success of integrating the gays into the military community. That is actually happening. So what do equal rights advocacy groups do now? Redefine, reorganize, revisualize.

  • Tom Carpenter

    I would like to put this claim of trans bias to rest. I was on the board when Allyson was hired. It was my final board meeting after serving 17 years. I can assure everyone that Allyson was selected as ED because she was the most impressive and qualified candidate. The issue of her being trans was discussed in passing. Some board members anticipated push back from senior military officials and conservative organizations. We felt it was a non issue and that have a trans person lead the organization had the collateral effect of confirming how committed OS-SLDN was to changing the medical regulations to permit trans patriots to serve in uniform. If there is any evidence that Allyson being trans had any impact on the board’s actions, I challenge anyone to provide it now. Enough is enough.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    That’s very kind of you to say so. :-) In any case, I appreciate your loaning me your comment section soapbox.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Excellent analysis. I wish I could afford to pay you to write for us :)

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Once this blows over, it’s an interesting article, whether OutServe-SLDN’s demise isn’t a a sign that they’re they’re the first group to be a victim of its own success.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    I for one am appreciating your attempts to make sense of this, John.

    Right now, it’s feeling like the activist organization equivalent of Peyton Place — all kinds of hidden and partially-hidden and unhidden conflicts and agendas, each one given a particular spin to try to make certain participants look better than their behavior and actions might’ve warranted.

    If I had to make some guesses, I’d summarize as follows:

    - The merger between OutServe and SDLN never completely ‘took’, with individuals and groups on both sides vying for control of the organization.
    - Maybe someone (or several someones?) had a personal problem with Robinson, or maybe they objected to a transgendered person being in charge — we may never know.
    - Although the post-DADT goal of advocating for anti-discrimination rules and laws for the military would seem to have been an obvious new goal, the merged organization wasn’t able to craft a compelling media-friendly message. (One thought I had was that putting Robinson in charge may have been intended as a clear message that another problem is the military still, as a rule, discharges anybody who comes out as T*, without exception. Nevertheless, rectifying this is another goal that just didn’t gain any particular media attention.)
    - They had no viable strategy for continued funding in the inevitable drop-off in donations and visibility post-DADT. (And I would guess they had a rather bloated administrative organization after the merger with no clear plan for streamlining, as necessitated by the funding realities.)
    - I think we can safely conclude there are any number of non-disclosure agreements in play, which is why the people at the center of the mess aren’t speaking clearly about what really happened.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Exactly. I’m sure the marriage equality groups are having similar problems right now, even though the legal situation is a whole lot less settled after the DOMA section 3 overturn.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Well, we’re watching an employment conflict where neither party, for obvious reasons, can speak publicly. The only person speaking is one former board member, Fulton, who was the one who called for Robinson to be let go in the first place – and now claims she was trying to save Robinson – so her credibility is questionable in my eyes. I understand why the board and Robinson aren’t speaking publicly – but at this point, Fulton, among others, have stirred the pot to such a degree publicly that I don’t see how the organization avoids coming clean and telling us what actually happened. So I understand the lack of transparency – this isn’t the kind of thing one normally litigates publicly, but clearly Fulton isn’t going to let it go, so let’s have it all public and let the chips fall where they may.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Occam’s razor

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Sue, your animus towards Seefried is clear, but your logic isn’t. Let’s walk through what you allege:

    1. Seefried is supposedly to be blame for all of this, but the only proof we have is an email from you calling for the board to get rid of Allyson Robinson because “this isn’t working out.” I appreciate that you now say that you called for Robinson to be forced out as some effort to help her, but the fact remains that the only proof we have of anyone trying to force Robinson points to you. And I quote:

    QUOTE
    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…”

    ENDQUOTE

    2. You talk of an inexperienced board? But I thought half the board was SLDN, and half was OutServe, and you only just merged 9 months ago. How was SLDN’s board inexperienced after 20 years of being in existence? And OutServe’s board had a board before it merged too, for two+ years. So in fact, all of you were experienced.

    And if everyone was so inexperienced, how was Seefried so experienced that he bamboozled 17 other board members, when Seefried’s only 26 years old or so himself? One would think he’d be the least experienced at that age.

    3. And I’m still not understanding how this worked. Two other board members, along with you, were allegedly opposed to Robinson leaving. Seefried supposedly was in favor and running the cabal of one. That’s 3 to his one 1. Those sound like good odds. But we’re to believe that 15 other board members were “scared” into firing Robinson because Seefried wanted more media attention, and someone a 26 year old kid was able to outmaneuver 17 other people with far more experience in life and politics, especially the SLDN half of the board. That just isn’t credible.

    Nor is it credible that, as you now allege, former and active duty US military personnel were such push-overs that a 26 year old coud force them to fire an ED because he’s not getting enough media attention. In fact, from my experience, military personnel are quite the opposite of pushovers.

    4. As for your allegation that no one involved had ever alleged that Robinson was fired for being trans, I quote the memo/statement your coalition of chapter heads supporting Robinson sent to the board:

    QUOTE

    The reputation of OutServe-SLDN has now been irreparably damaged by the lack of communication immediately following the initial leak and the failure to directly address the question – “Was she fired because she is transgender?”

    ENDQUOTE

    5. Now you’re alleging that the financial disaster happened because of Seefried’s alleged action in trying to get Allyson off the board three weeks ago. So, OutServe-SLDN wasn’t in dire financial straits until the past few weeks after your email calling for the board to oust Robinson went public? That’s your argument – that OutServe-SLDN was financially sound until just 2 weeks ago?

    6. And finally, for someone who simply must have media attention, Seefried has been quiet throughout this entire affair. You however have been everywhere.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Shorter: We still don’t know, but it seems likely the bankruptcy, large drop-off in donations, and the lack of concrete post-DADT goals are factors in this ongoing kerfuffle.

  • Brenda Sue Fulton

    WRONG. Again. Seefried used a decline in donations (which every LGBT org has experienced) as a pretext to push Robinson out. This was a power play by someone used to running the org and envious of the media attention going elsewhere, facilitated by a majority of an inexperienced Board. No one involved has ever alleged that Robinson was fired for being trans, and this reporter has ignored calls from members to correct that error. That said, in the wake of the action, event sponsors, grantors, members, and other donors have fled, leaving OS-SLDN in financial catastrophe with no experienced staff to recover. Both the financial disaster and perceived anti-trans bias were results of Seefried’s actions, not causes of it.

  • Indigo

    What did they say? I’m attempting to translate it here: “Blah-blah-blah. No transparency. Blah-blah-blah. We’re the good guys, you have to support us. Blah-blah-blah.” That sounds to me like a board failure to set goals and maintain a clear commitment to those goals. Maybe, just maybe, as the gay community emerges into the bright light of day, those old-time drama queen theatrics are not the most useful means available for advancing equality for all, regardless of sexual orientation.

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