October 11, 2011

Equality California Executive Director Quits - 40% Of Staff Laid Off - Turmoil Ensues


San Francisco, California: Equality California (EQCA), the LGBT political advocacy group founded in 1998, announced that Executive Director Roland Palencia, has resigned. Palencia took the helm of the civil rights organization on July 5th, 2011, and his resignation is effective October 14, 2011.

The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that EQCA has laid off nearly 40% of it’s staff, and that the organization is in turmoil.

Reached by phone, Palencia said, "I literally made a personal decision that I wanted to move on. There's really nothing more to it." He said he was not forced out by the board.

About the group's financial situation, he said, "Right now a lot of nonprofits are having problems," but he maintained that the organization has "a lot of support."

Matthew Bunch, who was the government affairs manager from January until he was laid off last month, said, "Everybody's leaving," adding that the organization has "a vacuum of leadership and a vacuum of staff."

This news comes at a precipitous time for EQCA. SB48, the Bill that San Francisco’s Senator Mark Leno introduced this year, that was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, mandates teaching California students about the significant contributions of the LGBT community to society, as well as people with disabilities, in tandem with the historical implications. Opponents of SB48 have until Wednesday to qualify the referendum, and place it on the ballot, in order to repeal the law.  EQCA was reportedly going to lead the campaign to defend the law.

I hope that the Board of Directors of EQCA are strong and decisive, and that they can find a replacement for Roland rather quickly. EQCA has been very effective at what they do, and according to their web site:

In the past decade, Equality California has successfully passed more than 60 pieces of civil rights legislation for the LGBT community – more than any other statewide LGBT organization in the nation.

That’s a pretty impressive record. This is my personal opinion. They would be well served by hiring Jarret Barrios, the former President of GLAAD, to replace Roland Palencia. EQCA is more low key than GLAAD, and Barrios was a State Senator in Massachusetts. He understands the ins and outs of politics, is familiar with how state legislatures and government works, and knows how to write legislation. I’m sure his experience at GLAAD has humbled him, and that he would work doubly hard to prove himself. I hope that the EQCA Board considers him, and moves swiftly.

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