June 23, 2013 | by Chris Johnson
OutServe-SLDN chief axed by board: reports
Allyson Robinson, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, OutServe, gay news, Washington Blade

Allyson Robinson was asked to resign by OutServe-SLDN’s board, according to media reports. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

UPDATE: This story has been updated to include a statement to the Blade from OutServe-SLDN board member Marine Corps Capt. Matthew Phelps, who says he’s withholding his resignation indefinitely until current issues are resolved.

The head of the LGBT military group OutServe-SLDN has resigned following a request from her organization’s board after serving less than one year as executive director, according to reports.

The news of Allyson Robinson’s ouster was first reported by The Bilerico Project on Sunday morning, which reported she was fired from the position. A subsequent report from Buzzfeed provided additional information, but said she was asked to resign. Yet another report on AMERICAblog says neither is the case, but the development to remove her was proceeding.

The Bilerico account, citing a leaked email from Director of External Relations Zeke Stokes, reports Robinson was “fired” after a “board coup.” She’s the only openly transgender leader of a national organization representing the LGBT community.

Additionally, Bilerico reported Stokes along with Director of Chapter & Member Services Gary Espinas and Legal & Public Policy Director David McKean resigned in protest, along with other board members.

Stokes said in the email leaked to Bilerico, “I can no longer represent OutServe-SLDN to the public or to our members and donors.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.”

Bilerico also reports McKean confirmed his resignation, but is staying on with the organization until some legal matters are resolved.

“It would be inappropriate for me to comment on yesterday’s events,” McKean is quoted as saying. “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.”

When contacted by the Washington Blade, both Stokes and Robinson declined to comment on the situation. McKean didn’t respond to the Blade’s request for comment. Espinas also didn’t immediately respond to Blade’s request for comment, but also has an away message on his email indicating he’s resigned.

“Dear Reader: I have resigned from the OutServe-SLDN staff. I am no longer monitoring this email address,” Espinas writes. “Please direct your inquiries to the OutServe-SLDN Board of Directors.”

On Sunday, OutServe-SLDN board member Brenda “Sue” Fulton posted the Bilerico report on her Facebook page while identifying as one of the board members who resigned. Fulton didn’t respond to the Blade’s request for comment.

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

According to Bilerico, anonymous sources with knowledge of OutServe-SLDN’s finances say that the decision was mostly based on a lack of fundraising since “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” repeal. Bilerico reports Robinson volunteered last week to take a pay cut to prevent layoffs at the organization.

Asked by the Blade to comment on the developments, OutServe co-founder and Board Chair Josh Seefried had little to say, but gave assurances more information would be forthcoming.

“We have some internal issues to deal with, but after that, we will be updating the community,” Seefried said.

Jonathan Hopkins, another board member, told the Blade the Bilerico report is “not entirely accurate,” but refused to comment further.

The Buzzfeed report says Robinson was asked by the board to resign on Saturday — after which Fulton accused Seefried of having “rushed this vote through.”

Buzzfeed obtained a different email from Fulton to Seefried and board member Katie Miller saying she didn’t vote to ask Robinson to resign, nor did board member Shannon McLaughlin. Fulton writes in the email that board members Matthew Phelps and Beth Schissel didn’t have the opportunity to vote.

“You cannot characterize this publicly as a ‘unanimous’ vote of the Board,” Fulton writes. “If you do so, Board members will speak publicly to deny that they voted for it. The details of who was in the room and who wasn’t when you rushed this vote through will not support your case.”

It’s unclear how much longer Robinson will stay on as executive director.

Both Bilerico and Buzzfeed reported board chair Marine Corps Capt. Matthew Phelps, who recently married Ben Schock in a high-profile wedding, and Beth Schissell had resigned from the board in addition to Fulton.

But in a statement to the Washington Blade, Phelps said while he intended to resign, he has decided to withhold his resignation at the request of the board “for the time being.”

“As many of you know, I submitted my resignation to OutServe-SLDN yesterday,” Phelps said. “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.”

Asked by the Blade why his resignation wasn’t accepted, Phelps replied, “They value my participation in handling the current situation.”

In response to another follow-up inquiry on how long the “time being” would last, Phelps replied, “I am holding off indefinitely until the current issues are resolved.”

The third report on AMERICAblog says no decision to oust Robinson has been made. This report has another email dated June 23 from Fulton in which she appears complicit in the decision to oust Robinson by announcing a proposal to meet with her “to work together on a transition plan that has you resigning.”

AMERICAblog doesn’t cite the full email in the story, but the rest of it lays out a timetable for her departure and “makes clear that should Robinson not accept a peaceful transition, she would be asked to leave immediately.”

In a subsequent update, Bilerico reports it was told by Fulton that this email was “pulled out of context.”

According to AMERICAblog, the developments are related to OutServe-SLDN’s chief financial officer Francisco Ramirez, who had been with the organization since 2005 and resigned last month. Robinson reportedly wanted Ramirez gone, but it’s unclear for what reasons.

OutServe-SLDN was seen as struggling to find new direction following the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Robinson had been an advocate for an explicit non-discrimination policy in the military and openly transgender service.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

1 Comment
  • Those who don't like criticism of sacred cows—be they organizations or individuals—need not bother with reading the perspective of this longtime observer of SLDN at the link. But those who care more about where the fight for LGBT service member equality is going need to know where it's been. And that has gotten totally lost in all the noise about what's happening, maybe happening, why, and maybe why.

    http://tinyurl.com/lnr9529

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