Officials at one of the state’s most prominent LGBTQ+ organizations, the Utah Pride Center, admitted “massive financial turmoil” in a statement sent to supporters — after reportedly laying off more than a third of its staff.
The statement, sent out Tuesday evening in an email newsletter, was also posted on the center’s Instagram feed — but deleted from the social media platform later that night.
Michael Aaron, editor and publisher of the LGBTQ+ magazine QSaltLake Magazine, reported Monday that seven of the center’s 19 employees — including co-CEO Jonathan Foulk and communications director Rosa Bandeirinha — were laid off.
Neither Foulk nor Bandeirinha responded to requests for comment Tuesday from The Salt Lake Tribune. Representatives of the Utah Pride Center also did not respond to multiple requests for comment Tuesday.
The statement said the center’s “reduction in workforce” was based on “massive financial turmoil that the center is currently facing.” It also said the situation is “not new.”
“Reimagining the Center is a long overdue task,” the statement read. “We don’t know what is going to happen, the Center might close, revive, or reset.”
The statement said center officials were “acknowledging the disappointment and outrage of the community regarding the instability” of the organization. It also asked the community to give their input for how the center should move forward.
Tuesday’s statement said the center’s remaining leadership team — which includes CEO Tanya Hawkins, VP of development Ted Nicholls, director of programs Britt Martinez, director of grants Maxwell Miletich, director of suicide prevention and community health Ash Fletcher-García and director of operations and outreach Jackson Carter — are “hopeful and trust that their hard work to get the Center back into shape will be effective.”
The statement asked the community for patience as center officials devise a plan by Oct. 1. All September programs will be suspended, center officials said, and the center will be closed through next month.
According to the most recent 990 form filed, for the 12 months ending September 30, 2021, the Utah Pride Center reported revenues of $2,116,293 and expenses of $1,845,793 — a net gain of $270,500.
Nearly 87% of those revenues, $1,839,120, were from contributions and grants. Most of the rest came from program services — including Utah Pride Festival admissions and fees for mental health counseling.
The previous 12 months — with the 2020 Utah Pride Festival and parade canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic — the center reported it spent $366,864 more than it brought in, according to that year’s 990.
From 2010 to 2018, according to an analysis on ProPublica’s Nonprofit Explorer site, the center ended the fiscal year in the black — sometimes by just a few thousand dollars, but in 2013 up to nearly $1 million.
The center, founded in 1991 and given its current name in 2005, provides year-round programs for Utah’s LGBTQ+ community. Its biggest community effort each year, and its biggest fundraiser, is the Utah Pride Festival and parade in early June.
This year’s festival drew criticism from local artisans and makers because of the increased costs of booth prices, in what one past vendor called “another greedy money grab and [a] way to push out artists, to make room for major corporations.” Some groups gathered at the community center Church & State, across the street from the pride festival’s Library Square location, for an alternative pride event. At the time, Bandeirinha expressed empathy with vendors’ frustrations, but added that the center’s operational costs have “gone up exponentially.”
The pride festival featured some big stars as entertainment headliners, including drag performer Trixie Mattel. According to the talent booking agency All American Speakers, Mattel’s booking fee for live speaking events is between $50,000 and $100,000.
Foulk told Tribune columnist Robert Gehrke in June that security at the festival cost more than $300,000 — a far higher expense than in past years — because of increased threats against the LGBTQ+ community.
In a post on the center’s website after the June festival, Foulk wrote that “many folks don’t know that our Festival funds the life-affirming programs and services we offer to our community all year.”
He also noted that the festival suffered a four-hour evacuation on Saturday, June 3, because of a severe thunderstorm. “We are working hard to mitigate the immense losses caused by this closure and are spreading the word that the needs of our community are ever-present,” Foulk wrote in the post, right above a ‘Donate Now’ button.
In 2020, The Tribune reported concerns about the organization’s “questionable finances, mismanagement, lack of transparency” and other issues, including five former employees who sued the nonprofit. Their complaints included “mismanagement and financial malfeasance.” The lawsuit moved from state to federal court, where it was dismissed by stipulation of the parties in August 2022.
Editor’s note • This story is available to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers only. Thank you for supporting local journalism.