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Stonewall Dems leader to step down

Departure comes as group faces financial woes

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Michael Mitchell
Michael Mitchell

Michael Mitchell, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats, announced today he will be stepping down. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The National Stonewall Democrats announced today that its executive director, Michael Mitchell, will leave the organization at the end of this month when his two-year contract expires.

Mitchell’s departure comes at a time when financial problems forced the organization earlier this year to lay off at least one staff member, leaving the group with just one part-time and two full-time employees as it gears up for the 2012 elections.

The announcement that Mitchell will be stepping down also comes amid reports by knowledgeable sources that at least three of the group’s board members resigned in March over a heated dispute over whether the board should retain Mitchell as director. At the time, a majority of the board backed Mitchell, according to sources familiar with the group.

Mitchell told the Blade his decision to step down was due to his own assessment of what is best for NSD and himself at this time and it had nothing to do with the board’s deliberations earlier this year.

“That was months ago,” he said in referring to the board resignations. “Those board members left actually for a variety of reasons. I don’t think they all left because of my leadership,” he said. “That’s not what I got from several of the board members who left.”

Two board members who resigned, Melissa Sklarz of New York and Chris Massicotte of D.C., declined to comment on their reason for resigning when contacted by the Blade.

Mitchell discussed further his decision to step down in an NSD statement released Tuesday.

“The decision to leave NSD was a difficult one for me, especially with a critical election coming up next year that will define us as a nation, but it was made easier knowing that our affiliates, staff and board are fully engaged in fulfilling the mission of National Stonewall Democrats,” Mitchell said in the statement.

“It’s been my privilege to work for NSD the past two years and a distinct honor to have been able to work with our affiliates around the country who are doing the on-the-ground, necessary work of getting pro-equality Democrats elected,” he said in his statement. “It has been a particular point of privilege to work with such a dedicated and hard-working staff.”

In mentioning NSD’s affiliates Mitchell was referring to the more than 80 LGBT Democratic Party clubs from across the country, including D.C.’s Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, that are members of NSD’s grass roots network.

“Michael has accomplished many great things while serving as our executive director,” said Craig Roberts, NSD’s board chair. “During his tenure, he has represented the organization incredibly well and built and solidified relationships that are integral to the work of NSD,” he said.

“To know Michael is to know that he is incredibly committed to our organization and to electing pro-equality Democrats. I’ll miss working with him, but I know that he will continue to do good work in the next phase of his life,” Roberts said.

In its announcement on Tuesday, NSD said the board has named Jerame Davis, the organization’s current Affiliate Services Director, as interim executive director while the board conducts a search for a permanent director.

Roberts said he didn’t know whether Davis would apply for the permanent director’s position but he would welcome him, as he would other applicants, as a candidate to be considered for the post.

Sources familiar with NSD said board members who called for replacing Mitchell earlier this year praised his overall work but believed he lacked fundraising skills needed to sustain the organization at a time when a sagging U.S. economy made it more difficult for all non-profit groups to raise money.

When asked this week why NSD was encountering financial problems, both Roberts and Mitchell cited a decline in contributions from donors based largely on the economy.

In addition, the two said the widely reported support by the national Democratic Party for LGBT equality has played some role in prompting NSD donors of the past to give money directly to the Democratic National Committee or LGBT supportive Democratic candidates rather than to NSD.

“This is partially due to our success in helping to build a strong, pro-LGBT equality Democratic Party,” Roberts said.

Roberts said NSD continues to fulfill its role since its founding in 1993 by gay U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) as an advocate for pushing the Democratic Party to go further in its support for LGBT rights. He disputed claims by some critics that NSD has become a “puppet” of the DNC.

He and Mitchell said a decrease in the number of board members from eleven to six this year also made it more difficult for NSD to raise money. Roberts said rules established for board members require that they contribute or raise at least $10,000 a year as a condition for serving on the board. He said the group’s bylaws allow the board to expand to 15 members.

“We’re looking for new board members at this time,” Roberts said. “We invite anyone interesting in serving at this very important time leading up to the elections to contact us.”

Roberts said the group’s small staff and shortage of resources, along with an “oversight,” were responsible for NSD’s not filing its 990 IRS financial statements for the 2009 and 2010, which all non-profit, tax-exempt organizations are required to file.

“We’ll be doing that in the next few weeks,” Roberts said. Mitchell said he expected to have the two forms filed with the IRS, at which time they become public documents, by the end of this month.

Roberts declined to disclose what NSD’s current operating budget is, saying jokingly, “It’s somewhere between $100,000 and $1 million.”

The NSD 990 reporting statement for 2008, the last one the group filed as of this week, shows it raised $465,391 in revenue and had $435,946 in expenses. The 2008 revenue figure represented just over $101,000 more than the $363,947 in revenue NSD reported for 2007.

Mitchell said the 2008 income came in the midst of an exciting U.S. presidential election that prompted many supporters to make a contribution to the group and just before the recession hit.

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Comings & Goings

Peter Chandler named executive director of Internet Works

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Peter Chandler

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected].

Congratulations to Peter Chandler on being named executive director of Internet Works. Since 2020, Internet Works has worked to ensure the voice of small and medium-sized online platforms is included in policy discussions typically targeted at the largest companies.

Laura Bisesto, chair of the board, said “We’re thrilled that Peter Chandler has joined as Internet Works’ Executive Director. The tech policy space is constantly changing, especially around intermediary liability, and as we work to ensure small and medium-sized tech companies are included in the policy debates lawmakers are having around the country, Peter was a natural fit for us.”

Chandler has 30 years of campaign, political, legislative, and advocacy experience at the state and federal levels. He previously served as Senior Vice President of Federal Policy and Government Relations at TechNet. During his time at the association, Peter was named a “Top Lobbyist” by The Hill newspaper. Prior to that he served as chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine). Chandler has also consulted and trained numerous political and advocacy groups, including the ACLU, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute, and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee in 1998. In 2020, he was elected to the board of the National LGBTQ Task Force.

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District of Columbia

New D.C. walking tour highlights LGBTQ history

Zach Patalingjug launched company in June in time for Pride Month

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Zach Patalingjug leads his Beyond the Closet: The Persecution and Liberation of the LGBTQ Community in Washington, D.C., tour on July 13, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Sean Koperek)

Want to learn more about the city’s LGBTQ history while seeing some of the sights? Beyond the Landmarks’ Beyond the Closet: The Persecution and Liberation of the LGBTQ Community in Washington, D.C., tour could be just the choice.

Zach Patalingjug launched the company in June, and offers walks that highlights some of Washington’s LGBTQ history.

The LGBTQ-specific tour starts with him emailing each person on the route with a meet-up location and some advice for the tour itself. His business last month saw a lot of tourists participate in his tour — in part because of Pride Month, and Patalinjug is hoping to keep the momentum. 

Patalingjug, who is from California, has traveled to more than half of the country’s states and has traveled abroad numerous times to sightsee and absorb cultures. He told the Washington Blade he became inspired to create his company after reading James Kirchick’s “Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington.”

Patalingjug spent a year researching his tour. He utilized the D.C. Central Library, where its fourth floor is dedicated entirely to the city’s history.

“I wanted to create a company that really explores the hidden gems, the lesser known history of Washington, D.C., to get the experiences that are truly authentic, and to tell stories that you don’t hear on most sightseeing tours,” he told the Washington Blade. 

The tours are between two to three hours long, depending on the group’s speed.

They officially start at 9:30 a.m., but Patalingjug recommends participants arrive 10 minutes earlier.

Each group meets in Farragut Square, directly outside of the Farragut West Metro station. The tour begins there and proceeds to Lafayette Square, where Patalingjug discusses the White House, the Hay-Adams Hotel, the former Lambda Rising bookstore, the Human Rights Campaign, the now-closed Chicken Hut near the White House, and myriad other locations. 

The tour ends in Dupont Circle.

Human Rights Campaign headquarters (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Patalingjug’s tour is more than a walk — each one is themed with topics that include “service, persecution, and liberation.

“Countless folks within the LGBTQ community have served and continue to serve the federal government,” he told the Blade.

He noted many of the people the tour highlights worked for the federal government before they lost their careers because they were outed or caught with a same-sex partner during the so-called “Lavender Scare.”

Then-Secretary of State John Kerry shortly before he stepped down in 2017 formally apologized to State Department personnel who were fired under the directive that then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued in 1953. President Joe Biden last year issued a formal proclamation on the policy’s 70th anniversary.

“For so many members of the LGBTQI+ community, hate, discrimination, and isolation throughout our country’s history have denied them the full promise of America,” Biden said. “The ‘Lavender Scare’ epitomized — and institutionalized — this injustice.”

Patalingjug’s tour highlights Frank Kameny, founder of the Mattachine Society of Washington, the city’s first politically active LGBTQ rights group that organized one of the country’s first gay rights protest that took place in front of the White House in 1965.

The protest highlighted the federal government’s discrimination against gays and lesbians. Kameny in 1957 lost his job as an astronomer in the Army Map Service because he was gay.

Frank Kameny Way in Dupont Circle is part of Zach Patalingjug’s Beyond the Closet: The Persecution and Liberation of the LGBTQ Community in Washington, D.C., tour (Washington Blade photo by Sean Koperek)

The tour also highlights Margaret “Midge” Costanza, an advisor to former President Jimmy Carter who invited members of the National Gay Task Force, which is now known as the National LGBTQ Task Force, to the White House in 1977.

“I’m just incredibly excited to be able to tell the authentic stories of people who lived through this period of history,” said Patalingjug.

Log onto Beyond the Landmarks’ website for more information.

Michael K. Lavers and Lou Chibbaro, Jr., contributed to this story.

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District of Columbia

Ruby Corado pleads guilty to wire fraud in plea agreement

Reduced charge says she stole at least $150,000 in COVID-relief funds

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Ruby Corado in El Salvador (Photo via Facebook)

Ruby Corado, the founder and executive director of the now-defunct LGBTQ community services organization Casa Ruby, pleaded guilty Wednesday, July 17, to a single charge of wire fraud as part of a plea bargain deal offered by prosecutors with the Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia.

The charge to which she pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for D.C. says she diverted at least $150,000 “in taxpayer-backed emergency COVID relief funds to private off-shore bank accounts for her personal use,” according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Court records show that U.S. District Court Judge Trevor N. McFadden, who is presiding over the case, has scheduled a sentencing hearing for Jan. 10, 2025.

Corado’s guilty plea came a little over six weeks after prosecutors on May 31 filed a one-count criminal information charge of wire fraud against her that replaced an earlier criminal complaint charging her with bank fraud, money laundering, monetary transactions in criminally derived proceeds, and failure to file a required report of a foreign bank account.

The earlier complaint was filed at the time the FBI arrested Corado on March 5 of this year at a hotel in Laurel, Md., shortly after she returned to the U.S. from El Salvador. The initial complaint, like the new criminal information that replaced it, accused Corado of diverting at least $150,000 of federal pandemic relief funds to her own bank accounts in El Salvador. The charges say the funds were intended for use by Casa Ruby to support indigent LGBTQ clients in need of housing and other support services.

At the request of Corado’s court-appointed attorney and against the wishes of federal prosecutors, who said Corado would be a flight risk, another judge agreed to release Corado into the custody of her niece in Rockville, Md., under a home detention order. The release order came seven days after Corado had been held in jail since the time of her arrest on March 5.

In addition to a prison sentence, the charge of wire fraud also includes a possible penalty of financial forfeiture for which Corado could be required to pay restitution to the government. The plea agreement filed in court includes this statement to Corado’s attorney: “Specifically, your client agrees to the entry of a forfeiture money judgment in an amount ordered by the Court, which is equal to the value of any property which constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable to the offense in Count One of the Information in which your client is pleading guilty.”

However, legal observers have said that under a plea agreement like the one offered to Corado, prosecutors most likely will ask the judge for a lesser sentence. Corado’s attorney is also expected to point out that this is a nonviolent, first-time offense for Corado, which merits a lesser sentence.

Corado has denied wrongdoing in her operation of Casa Ruby in response to a separate civil complaint filed against her and Casa Ruby by the Office of the D.C. Attorney General. That complaint is still pending in D.C. Superior Court.

In its July 17 statement the U.S. Attorney’s office refers to court documents showing that Corado, “on behalf of Casa Ruby, received more than $1.3 million from the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.” The statement adds, “Instead of using the funds as she promised, Corado stole at least $150,000 by transferring the money to bank accounts in El Salvador, which she hid from the IRS.”

The statement says that in 2022, “when financial irregularities at Casa Ruby became public, Corado sold her home in Prince George’s County and fled to El Salvador.” It says FBI agents arrested her at the hotel in Laurel, Md. on March 5 “after she unexpectedly returned to the United States.”

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