More changes abound at state advocacy group

More changes abound at state advocacy group

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Pennsylvania’s LGBT education and advocacy agency is heading into its search for a permanent executive director with a new name and new board members.

The former Equality Advocates Pennsylvania has experienced a series of recent upheavals — with the resignation of its executive director late last year and two rounds of board-wide resignations — but current board president Brian Sims said the agency, newly minted as Equality Pennsylvania, is on the right track.

Sims said that “when the dust settles,” Equality Pennsylvania will be the umbrella for the entire agency, which will house a 501 (c)(3) branch called Equality Pennsylvania Educational Fund, a 501 (c)(4) as Equality Pennsylvania and a yet-to-be-named political action committee.

Sims said the reorganization stemmed from the agency’s analysis of other successful statewide advocacy agencies, which focus heavily on their 501 (c)(4) operations, as the designation allows the groups to have expanded lobbying power.

Since Equality Pennsylvania will devote much of its efforts to lobbying, Sims said the agency has decided to open a new office in Harrisburg, which should launch in April.

“We know that given the emphasis on lobbying we’re going ahead with, we’re just as likely to have our staff in Harrisburg as they are to be here in Philadelphia, so it made sense to have a physical location for them to work out of,” Sims said, noting he expects a full-time Harrisburg employee to be hired by year’s end.

The new office is expected to open around the same time Equality Pennsylvania hires its new executive director.

The organization opened its search for a permanent executive director last week.

The job posting is listed on the Web sites of The Equality Federation, Victory Fund and Idealist, and applications will be accepted through April 1.

Sims said Equality Pennsylvania has enlisted the help of Pennsylvania Rep. Dan Frankel (D-23rd Dist.), Common Pleas Court Judge Dan Anders and the president of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Diversity Education Consortium, Arthur Breese, who will sit on the search committee, along with several members of the board. Stephen Glassman, chair of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, will serve as an advisor to the committee.

Sims said the committee will undertake a “significant review” of the applicants and will bring in the top two or three candidates for interviews by April, then make a decision shortly thereafter.

In the meantime, decision-making is being handled by the 11-member board and staff, which includes part-time office administrator Joe Dungee and full-time volunteer Mason Lane, as managing director Jake Kaskey, who was appointed last month after executive director Lynn Zeitlin stepped down, is on medical leave.

The board approved three new board members at its meeting last month in Harrisburg: Joyce Avila of Tobyhanna, Paul Nardone of Scranton and David Price of Pittsburgh.

Sims said he’s looking to have a total of 16 or 17 board members to represent all LGBT communities in the Keystone State.

“We’re getting there. We’re working with a couple key organizations in the state to start identifying board members in smaller regions, areas like York or Reading or parts of northwestern Pennsylvania,” he said. “If we’re truly going to be a statewide organization, people deserve to see representation from their regions. Are we there yet? Absolutely not, but we’re significantly closer than we’ve ever been.”

Sims said he’s also hoping to attract members from diverse ethnic backgrounds, heterosexual allies and those who represent a wide array of strengths.

“We want the board to be a mix of people who are fundraisers, those who are politically active, community organizers, business people, lobbyists and those who understand nonprofit organizations,” he said.

The board’s former secretary and treasurer resigned in late December and Nardone was elected secretary. Sims said the treasurer position will be filled at an upcoming board meeting.

Jen Colletta can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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