More news is leaking out about the ongoing organizational struggles at OutServe-SLDN. We broke the news yesterday that board co-chair Josh Seefried allegedly organized a board coup to oust Executive Director Allyson Robinson. Now Seefried himself may be on his way out the door.
The entire senior staff of the organization promptly tendered resignations following the board vote and other additional staffers like Kulsoom Naqvi, staff attorney, and Erica Reardon, communications and development associate, are no longer listed on the website as employees according to Buzzfeed.
At least three board members - Sue Fulton, Beth Schissel, and Marine Corps Capt. Matthew Phelps - tendered their resignations yesterday. In a statement to the Washington Blade this morning, Phelps announced that the board refused to accept his resignation and has asked him instead to participate in resolving the crisis.
"As many of you know, I submitted my resignation to OutServe-SLDN yesterday," Phelps told the Blade. "It was not immediately accepted by the board co-chairs, and at their request I have agreed to withhold my resignation for the time being. My primary focus has been and always will be in service to my country and ALL service members who defend it."
OutServe-SLDN still has not issued a statement more than 24 hours after the news of Robinson's firing was broken. Multiple sources say this is primarily because the internal power struggle continues with some of the remaining board members calling for Seefried's resignation as board co-chair, but he refuses to resign. Seefried is the founder of OutServe before it merged with longstanding DADT org SLDN.
As reported previously, Seefried is accused of manipulating Robinson's ouster by waiting until a regular board meeting where many of her supporters were absent. With no prior notice that her termination would be on the agenda, he supposedly rammed through her termination over the objections of others after a lengthy executive session of the board.
The reason for Robinson's firing is still undetermined. She was the only transgender leader of a major LGBT organization.
UPDATE: A copy of Schissel's resignation letter to the board has been leaked. A copy is after the break.
Schissel refers to "an organization in chaos that has put egos before mission," in her letter and multiple sources are suggesting that Seefried's motivation to seek Robinson's removal had nothing to do with fundraising abilities or anti-trans bias. Instead, they - like Schissel - claim that the actual reason is petty jealousy.
According to one person close to the situation who asked to remain anonymous because they're not allowed to speak for the organization, "This boils down to Josh wanting to be the one and only star [of] the show and seeing Allyson's star rising and [he] is insanely jealous and threatened by her influence over the membership and in the movement."
UPDATE 2: Nine OutServe-SLDN chapters have threatened to break away if Seefried does not step down as board co-chair. They say they will form their own organization.
UPDATE 3: Military Advisory Council member Jeremy Johnson resigned from the organization an hour ago citing the treatment of Robinson. A copy of his resignation letter is after the break.
UPDATE 4: OutServe Magazine board member Nathaniel Frank has resigned his position with the organization citing "actions taken by the OutServe-SLDN Board of Directors that do not appear to reflect either the best interests of the organization or the proper procedure for making organizational decisions." A copy of his resignation letter sent to Bilerico is also after the break.
Sources are also saying that OutServe-SLDN board member Sharon Lettman-Hicks, the only African-American member, has resigned. Lettman-Hicks is the Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition. Calls and emails for confirmation to Lettman-Hicks and Seefried were not returned.
Beth Schissel's Board Resignation Letter
From: Beth Schissel
Date: June 23, 2013, 10:28:50 EDT
When I was approached by Jeff Cleghorn to consider joining the board, I was both honored and humbled. Jeff was on the other end of a phone line - a lifeline to me - when I was in the quagmire of being investigated and ultimately discharged under DADT. The support provided me by SLDN was invaluable. Despite trepidation regarding my ability to become a fundraiser, I agreed to be nominated. And after talking with Jeff and Sue Fulton, I felt assured that the sum total of my life experience both in and out of the military and the all gray hairs earned along the way could be put to use by this organization moving forward.
I am completely dismayed by the decision to ask Allyson to resign. She is the right leader for this organization. Period. There is no one else who has the years of experience in the trenches and gravitas to reach across the table in the Pentagon and the halls of government who can get us to win-win on the issues facing the folks in uniform. And that after all, should be the focus - the mission, the mission, the mission.
I won't compromise my integrity in asking friends, colleagues and strangers to share their treasure to support an organization in chaos that has put egos before mission. I am, therefore, resigning from the board.
Beth L. Schissel, MD
Jeremy Johnson's Resignation Letter
From: Jeremy Johnson
Date: Sun, Jun 23, 2013 at 1:31 PM
Subject: Full resignation from MAC
In solidarity with those I trust and respect - those I have sought counsel from and those I have complete faith in regarding their wisdom and insight - I find the developments of this weekend more than disturbing. While the decisions made have not been explained, I can see no situation, based on what is known publicly, for asking for Allyson's resignation.
As Executive Director, she has been a formidable warrior in the last nine months and incredibly innovative and flexible in moving the organization forward. For OS-SLDN to succeed, the reality of the future is that we must rebuild from the ground up because the challenges are new; so then must be the approaches to overcoming them.
She listens, she adapts, she overcomes. She is the tip of the spear in flesh and has pierced some of the most resistant barriers with her gracious style and genuine belief in doing what is best for those in uniform.
Asking for her resignation now sends the wrong message, especially to those in the community who were blown away by the history making decision to acknowledge the equal value of transgender veterans as leaders by hiring Allyson as the voice of the new org. Undoubtedly, this had nothing to do with the board's most recent decision, but the seed of doubt will be there and discredit the organization among those who came aboard as supporters shortly after she was hired.
Though mostly symbolic on my part, due to the resignations of Zeke, Sue, David and Matthew, I have more than enough justification to submit my final resignation as an associate Military Advisory Council member. I have complete faith in the judgement of these individuals and I can not remain a part of the organization when its most outspoken and dedicated members - the heart and soul of its effectiveness - feel the need to step down from the org they've passionately given time and money to, even when its path has seemed a bit fuzzy.
I genuinely wish the org the best in the future - but unless this decision is reversed and these key players can be convinced to remain - I cannot be a part of it institutionally going forward.
Nathaniel Frank's Resignation Letter
After hearing this weekend of actions taken by the OutServe-SLDN Board of Directors that do not appear to reflect either the best interests of the organization or the proper procedure for making organizational decisions, I have concluded I can no longer serve on the board of OutServe Magazine. As someone who has devoted the bulk of my professional career to researching and sharing information about the experiences and challenges of LGBT service members, I am hopeful that Outserve-SLDN or some other organization will be able to adequately serve the needs of this and the wider U.S. military community. It has been my honor to serve in my capacity as Magazine board member alongside many dedicated and professional staff and board members. Effective today, I am resigning my position, and I wish all our service members the very best.