October 4, 2018 at 4:00 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Lambda Legal announces N.Y. activist Richard Burns as interim CEO

Richard Burns was named interim CEO of Lambda Legal.

Lambda Legal has appointed a longtime N.Y. activist to take the helm as interim leader, following the recent departure of its CEO ahead of the mid-term elections, the Washington Blade has learned.

Richard Burns, who served as executive director of the NYC LGBT Community Center for 22 years, is set to take over as interim CEO as the search continues for a replacement for Rachel Tiven, who resigned in August.

“I have a long history with Lambda Legal and a deep commitment to its work,” Burns said in a statement. “I’m delighted to join this team during such an important time in Lambda’s and our country’s history. Our democracy is in danger from those who don’t believe in the fundamental rights of LGBT people and people living with HIV and Lambda Legal has a coordinated national strategy with a diverse set of voices to fight the Trump agenda.“

Burns, who’s set to begin as interim CEO on Tuesday, is a former board member of Lambda and has longstanding ties to the LGBT group.

According to his bio, Lambda in the late 1970s sued on behalf of Gay Community News, where Burns served as managing editor, to challenge a federal prison policy banning LGBT publications. In 1980, Burns joined Lambda Legal’s first national board of directors.

A non-profit management consultant, Burns served as interim executive director of the Johnson Family Foundation, the North Star Fund, PENCIL, the Funding Exchange, Funders for LGBTQ Issues and the Stonewall Community Foundation. Burns was also the chief operating officer of the Arcus Foundation. Burns was executive director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in New York City from 1986 to 2009.

Anne Krook, chair of Lambda’s board of directors, hailed the choice of Burns to head the organization based on his experience in non-profits and LGBT work.

“We are extremely pleased to have a member of the Lambda Legal family, Richard Burns, stepping into this role as the interim CEO while we search for the next permanent CEO,” Krook said. “Richard comes with a wealth of experience, having been director at the Center for 22 years and interim for several nonprofits, but he also is deeply connected to the history of this organization. We are glad to have someone who knows Lambda Legal’s mission well and can jump right into the job to help us through this transition.”

Burns comes aboard as interim head of Lambda after Tiven resigned in August with the stated purpose of working on the mid-term elections with the Leadership Now Project, a progressive non-profit of business professionals.

But Tiven’s resignation came amid discontent from staffers, who complained about attrition, an edict-based management approach and cuts to benefits. Last year, the organization voted overwhelmingly to form a union with the Washington-Baltimore News Guild.

A Lambda spokesperson said the search for the next CEO “begins immediately,” but didn’t have a timeframe for when that decision will be made.

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

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