The Transgender Schism (GCN letter to the editor, 7.16.02)


July 16, 2002
To the Editor:
As members of the board of directors of the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA), we wish to correct the misimpression that readers might have from the false and misleading statements made by Donna Cartwright, Keith Cylar, and Charles King in their letters to the editor (Gay City News July 12 – 18).

Contrary to Ms. Cartwright’s assertion, the scandal is not the relocation of the NYAGRA computer, worth a few hundred dollars at most. A supervisor may be justified in securing computer files to protect sensitive documentation, particularly when those files may document serious misconduct by an employee.

The real scandal is the disposition of more than $50,000 in funds, which remain unaccounted for by Housing Works.

In that context, the personal attacks on Pauline Park by Ms. Cartwright, Mr. King, Jamie Hunter, Melissa Sklarz, and others are a tactic intended to divert attention from their own conduct. Mr. Cylar and Mr. King (Housing Works’ co-presidents) write, “In no circumstance would we condone subterfuge nor covert efforts to undermine another community organization nor would we permit anyone in our own employ or acting under our sponsorship to do so.” But that is precisely what Mr. King is attempting to do to NYAGRA.

In fact, Housing Works’ Albany lobbyist, Mark Hayes, even confirmed that he agreed with the sentiment in Jamie Hunter’s notorious December 2001 “covert operations” memo (“Bare-Knuckles Gender Rights Brawl,” by Duncan Osborne, Gay City News, June 28-July 4) in which she outlined a strategy to remove the Empire State Pride Agenda’s executive director by hiring a private investigator to try to find incriminating evidence about him. So no one could be surprised if Housing Works staff applied the same underhanded tactics in an attempted take-over of NYAGRA.

In October 2000, the NYAGRA Board entered into a fiscal sponsorship agreement with Housing Works. At no time did NYAGRA consider Jamie Hunter an employee of Housing Works or cede to Housing Works any authority over NYAGRA personnel. It was the NYAGRA human resources and administration committee––which included Moonhawk River Stone and David Valentine as well as Pauline Park––that supervised Ms. Hunter and reviewed her job performance.

Gay City News has reported on the February termination of Ms. Hunter’s at-will employment (“Division Follows Victory,” by Duncan Osborne, June 21-27). When the deliberations that led to Ms. Hunter’s termination began in early February, Mr. King engaged in a heavy-handed and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to try to forestall it. Intervening improperly in internal NYAGRA affairs, Mr. King attempted to undermine the supervisory authority of the human resources and administration committee and the NYAGRA board. At the same time, Ms. Cartwright engaged in efforts to remove from the NYAGRA board all directors attempting to fulfill their fiduciary responsibility and seemed particularly intent on driving Ms. Park from the board. By the end of February, a majority of board members were prepared to remove Ms. Cartwright from the board, but she resigned just before the final vote.

On March 7, Mr. King sent a letter to NYAGRA board members informing us that he had banned us from Housing Works premises throughout the city, asserting that “entry on Housing Works’ property by any member of NYAGRA’s Board of Directors constitutes trespass and will result in appropriate legal action.”

In threatening us with criminal prosecution, Mr. King has precluded our access to NYAGRA property (including important files and a computer monitor). As a result of Mr. King’s behavior, NYAGRA board members realized that we had no choice but to terminate our fiscal sponsorship agreement with Housing Works and find a fiscal sponsor that would respect NYAGRA’s organizational integrity, one that we could trust to act ethically and responsibly. But despite our having concluded an agreement with a new fiscal sponsor on March 14, Mr. King refused to transfer NYAGRA’s remaining funds to that sponsor or to return those funds to the original funders.

Mr. King then helped construct the legal fiction that a new NYAGRA board had been elected, providing him with the fig leaf needed to try to justify holding onto more than $50,000 in grant money belonging to NYAGRA and providing him with a pretext to continue to pay Ms. Hunter following her termination, despite his having no authority to do so. At a May 4 meeting, Ms. Hunter declared that she was still being paid from NYAGRA funds. So despite the termination of Ms. Hunter’s employment and of the fiscal sponsorship agreement, Mr. King continues to employ her with NYAGRA money against the wishes of the NYAGRA board of directors.

Our commitment is to rebuilding and sustaining the legitimate NYAGRA and to advocating on behalf of the community that it is pledged to serve. We are confident that those who share that commitment will reject the behavior of Charles King and the conduct exemplified by Jamie Hunter’s “covert operations” memo and those who support such tactics.

Stuart Chen-Hayes,
NYAGRA treasurer

Moonhawk River Stone,
NYAGRA co-chair

Sophia Pazos,
NYAGRA board of directors

This letter to the editor originally appeared in the 16 July 2002 issue of Gay City News.

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