Monday, May 23, 2011

Gay Centers' Board Meetings:
SF = Public, NY = Private, LA = ??

Last week, I was curious about the San Francisco LGBT Community Center's board of directors and their meetings. The center last year received a $157,000 line of credit from the city to help with its large financial troubles, and that amount was on top of the $5 million previously provided to build and operate the center.

Did the center's board allow for public attendance and comments, either because of self-created or municipally-mandated transparency policies? The answer was not found at the page for the board, which provided this terse sentence: Board meetings are held in January, March, May, July, September and November every third Monday at 7PM.

In response to a few questions regarding the meetings and minutes, the center's executive director, Rebecca Rolfe, shared this info:

In answer to your question, yes, all board meetings are open to the public and every board agenda provides for opportunity for public comment. The schedule for board meetings is posted on our website, and we also post our meeting schedule at the SF Public Library Government Documents Section and with the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors. All minutes are kept in a public access binder available at our front desk during the hours that the building is open ...

It is my understanding that we are not only in full compliance the Sunshine Act, but exceed compliance as all meetings are open to the public. The board feels that having open meetings is an important component of our commitment to transparency and accountability to the community.

You are welcome to attend the next board meeting, which is scheduled for Monday, July 18th. ...

After thanking Rebecca for her reply, I asked if she would update the board's page to inform folks that board meetings were open to the public. What's the point of allowing public attendance and not telling folks about it? I am pleased to report that this info is now posted at the board's page: Board meetings are open to the public and board agendas allow time for public comment.

Next, I asked Cindi Creager, spokesperson for the NYC LGBT Community Center, about the attendance rules for their board and noted that the board's page omitted any info on this.

Her reply: The Center’s board meetings are not open to the public. That said, input from the community is welcome and encouraged and there are many ways for individuals to communicate with the Center’s Executive Director and board, including by email, phone and an online suggestion box which is open to the public 24 hours a day.

I'm not the least impressed with a cyber suggestion box, no matter how many hours of the day it is open.

I also queried the executive director of the LA Gay and Lesbian Center, Lori Jean, and two of her deputies, about their board's transparency policies, which, like the NYC center, are not posted on the board's page. Jean and her colleagues have not responded to my two requests for info, so it's a big question whether the Los Angeles community center's board sessions are public or private.

Let's put aside concerns that until last week the SF center failed to communicate that board meetings are public, and that they need to mention on their site that minutes are open to public inspection, because this center is now an example to hold up to the NYC and LA centers and demand that they too open their board meetings to the community.

Every single community center needs to have fully open board of director meetings, minutes from the sessions are to be accessible for public inspection, and board policies regarding attendance and minutes must be posted on each center's web site.

Heck, we also have insist that the SF center post the board minutes on the web, and generally keep pushing these and other community groups to explain and expand their transparency policies. Full and comprehensive sunshine is required ingredient to keep these centers and all Gay Inc organizations accountable and accessible to the people they serve.

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