Bil Browning

OutServe/SLDN Exec Dir Fired; Senior Staff Resigns [Updated]

Filed By Bil Browning | June 23, 2013 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: Allyson Robinson, board coup, David McKean, executive director firing, OutServe-SLDN, Sue Fulton, Zeke Stokes

Multiple updates below as they happen.

OutServe/SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson was fired after a board coup yesterday according to a leaked email sent to Bilerico Project. allyson-robinson-1.jpgRobinson was the only transgender leader of a major LGBT organization that is not specifically trans-related.

(Photo of Robinson via Facebook)

The organization's entire senior staff quit immediately following the board vote. Director of External Engagement Zeke Stokes, Director of Chapter and Member Services Gary Espinas, and David McKean, Legal and Public Policy Director, have all resigned in protest of Robinson's termination.

So far two board members have also resigned over Robinson's firing. Other board member resignations are expected later today.

Most Executive Directors are given at least a year to get their feet wet and get ensconced in their positions. Robinson has only been the head of OutServe/SLDN for approximately nine months.

A leaked copy of Stokes resignation letter to the board is after the break. Robinson declined to speak on the record or give any specifics about her termination, but did confirm she had been let go yesterday. Stokes did not return a request for comment.

UPDATE: David McKean has sent in a statement to clarify his resignation.

"It would be inappropriate for me to comment on yesterday's events. But while I share Zeke's conclusion, I will remain with the organization until I can determine how to resolve matters related to client representation in accordance with legal ethics rules and requirements."

UPDATE 2: OutServe-SLDN board member Sue Fulton has confirmed on Facebook that she has resigned over Robinson's termination.

"I am upset that this got out, but more upset that it happened. I was one of those who resigned from the Board," writes Fulton. "Sad, sad days. I will ALWAYS, ALWAYS support the lgbt troops. Mission over politics."

UPDATE 3 Chris Geidner at Buzzfeed has clips from an e-mail sent by Fulton to board co-chair Josh Seefried accusing him of board manipulation and warning him not paint the picture that it was a unanimous decision. Geidner reports, "It is unclear for how long Robinson will continue to be serving as the executive director. Saturday's move came at a regularly scheduled board meeting, with no advance notice of the plans to seek Robinson's resignation and only after the board spent several hours in executive session."

Former OutServe magazine editor David Small, however, has said in the comments section of this post, "I'm pleased with this new direction. While I supported the decision to hire her initially, it became apparent very quickly to me that she wasn't right for the job, hence my own resignation as the magazine's editor last January. Best of luck to OS as it gets back on its feet. Once, it had an honorable work ethic and I hope it returns to its former status."

UPDATE 4 Two other board members, Beth Schissel and Matthew Phelps, have resigned. With 18 board members counting Robinson, the latest resignations removes almost a third of the board.

UPDATE 5 Former Servicemembers United Executive Director Alex Nicholson has weighed in on Facebook saying, "I've been LOLing so hard for the last 15 hours. Karma's a biotch. Bring on immature inexperienced naive board members who have contributed nothing, get an immature inexperienced naive organization that accomplishes nothing. These aren't the good ole days when we moved mountains. Those times are gone, and the talents that moved them have retired."

Nicholson was almost universally reviled by LGBT leaders and DADT repeal activists while leading what he claimed was the largest DADT-focused group. After the law was repealed, the organization quickly folded and Nicholson wrote a "tell all" book that primarily painted himself and the org as the major force behind the repeal. The book was panned by insiders who said large portions were blatantly false.

UPDATE 6 John Aravosis is reporting at AmericaBLOG that OutServe-SLDN Chief Financial Officer Francisco Ramirez resigned last month citing disagreements with Robinson. A copy of Ramirez's resignation letter is also after the break.

Other sources with knowledge about the group's finances who asked not to be identified say that the decision was mostly based off a lack of fundraising ability since the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. They claim that Robinson volunteered last week to take a pay cut to prevent layoffs at the org.

Aravosis also insinuates that board member Sue Fulton was involved in Robinson's ouster and has published an email sent by Fulton to the board that says "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...'."

In an email to Bilerico, Fulton denied the allegation and stands by the assertion that she was a staunch defender of Robinson. "This email was pulled out of context," she wrote.

Fulton resigned from the board in protest of the decision to seek Robinson's removal and is quoted at Buzzfeed warning board co-chair Josh Seefried not to paint this story as a unanimous board decision.

UPDATE 7 Alex Nicholson has written the site to object to our quote of his posting on social media.

"That private comment was by no means me "weighing in," was by no means on the record, and was not even public. It was made to friends on my private and locked personal Facebook page, not for publication on your tabloid. You just proved my point that this community, including its media, is a far cry from where they it used to be in the days of credible LGBT online journalism. If you have a question about my public reaction, ask me. As for my book, Fighting to Serve, if you'd like to nitpick inconsequential errors feel free. However, no one can dispute the facts of what transpired or our centrality in that narrative. Those who try have private agendas, many of which are contrary to the best interests of LGBT equality. To be reviled by those types is a badge of honor that proves we did our jobs and stayed true to the cause."

OutServe-SLDN Director of External Engagement Zeke Stokes's Resignation Letter

Dear friends:

My entire professional life, I have maintained a motto: "Work Hard, Be Nice."

So I will not betray that now. Instead, I will say that it has been the great honor of my career to serve our nation's brave LGBT service members, veterans and their families. I could never have imagined when I accepted this position, that people like Charlie Morgan would enter my life and make such a profound impact on me.

Today, the Board of Directors made decisions that have compromised the trust I had placed in it heretofore. They have chosen a direction that is inconsistent with what I believe is necessary to secure a successful future for the organization. In doing so, they have for the foreseeable future sacrificed the viability of the mission.

For that reason, I can no longer represent OutServe-SLDN to the public or to our members and donors. Thus, effective today, I have resigned as a member of the staff and wish to no longer be affiliated with the organization.

For the rest of my life, I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to serve our nation's LGBT military community; however, the actions of this board are not worthy of their service and sacrifice. I choose to honor them with my resignation effective today.


OutServe-SLDN Chief Financial Officer Francisco Ramirez's Resignation Letter

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.



Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.