"The head of the city's largest AIDS service organization was forced out by the board of directors after she angered clients and staff, DNAinfo New York has learned......The city's AIDS Walk raises more than $5 million each year for HIV/AIDS prevention and advocacy efforts - but in recent years more than a third of the funds have gone to pay expenses and fees at the for-profit company that helps organize the event, DNAinfo.com New York has learned......A top civil rights lawyer plans to represent a group of people living with HIV who claim the city's largest AIDS organization is discriminating against them by forcing them to use a separate entrance to their offices from other visitors......Civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel, who was the director of the New York Civil Liberties Union from 1985 to 2000, said he's met with numerous members of GMHC regarding the entrance. "I'm troubled by what they've told me, specifically about a separate entrance," said Siegel.....The 2010 AIDS Walk pulled in $6,425,557, with $2,226,131 going toward expenses and $4,199,426 retained by GMHC - meaning the expenses cost roughly 35 percent of revenue. In 2009, expenses totaled 38.7 percent of revenue. MZA took in $408,633 as a fee in 2010, but the walk also paid nearly $800,000 for the company's salaries and benefits, records show......And in 2010, only 48.78 percent of donations raised by the MZA-organized AIDS Walk in Los Angeles went to AIDS Project Los Angeles, according to a report by the California Attorney General......"Most people think the AIDS Walk is GMHC - if you're giving money to the AIDS Walk, you're giving it to GMHC," a GMHC official said. "But at least 35 to 40 percent is not going to GMHC. Why donate to the AIDS Walk when you can just donate to GMHC?"
Below, scroll down, is the letter sent to the GMHC board by current & former staff apparently before Marjorie Hill left GMHC in Sept 2013, and clients' comments....
But now that organization, forged in the fire of an epidemic and designed to take on the establishment, is firmly a part of that establishment.
Last year, the organization operated at a six-figure loss, and government money is increasingly difficult to get.
David Fazio, the chief financial officer, said that despite running a deficit, the group's financial situation remained strong. It has a current annual budget of $26.7 million, and the AIDS Walk next year is expected to raise $5.4 million.
Charity Slammed for 'Sweetheart Deal' With For-Profit AIDS Walk Organizer
By Mathew Katz on April 15, 2013 6:55am
CHELSEA - The city's AIDS Walk raises more than $5 million each year for HIV/AIDS prevention and advocacy efforts - but in recent years more than a third of the funds have gone to pay expenses and fees at the for-profit company that helps organize the event, DNAinfo.com New York has learned.
MZA Events, a private company that organizes AIDS Walks around the country, has received free office space and millions of dollars a year from the nonprofit Gay Men's Health Crisis to plan the New York City AIDS Walk - all while eating up 35 to 40 percent of annual donations in expenses, sources said.
Clients and leadership at Gay Men's Health Crisis have begun to speak out against what they see as a "sweetheart agreement" with MZA.
They were particularly incensed to learn that the company got free rent at GMHC's West 33rd Street offices, because the nonprofit began charging rent for small community groups to use its space in September. Those groups had used office space there for free for years, and many were left struggling to pay.
"We're kicking out the nonprofit groups and they can't pay rent, but they're giving this profit-making company free space," said a member of GMHC's leadership, who asked not to be identified because it could cost him his position in the organization.
The group's Consumer Advisory Board was scheduled to discuss the issue at a meeting last week.
MZA Events lists its New York corporate office at 446 W. 33rd St., the same address as GMHC's offices. In an agreement with MZA that was filed with the state attorney general, GMHC agreed to "provide, at its expense, suitable office space" consisting of "10 rooms."
Seth Rosen, GMHC's managing director of development, said that it was a "mischaracterization" to say MZA gets free rent.
"We pay them, they work with us to produce the AIDS Walk," Rosen said. "It is necessary for them to be co-located with us, because we work so closely with them in a daily - if not hourly - coordination."
GMHC has worked with MZA on the New York City AIDS Walk - the organization's largest event by far, which draws about 45,000 participants - for 28 years, Rosen said.
A spokeswoman for the organization said that the 2012 walk brought in $5,813,180, but added that detailed financial records were not yet available.
According to an agreement signed by the two parties for the 2012 AIDS Walk, MZA's services command a hefty fee: a $285,000 base payment, a $20,000 bonus if the walk raises more than $2 million and another bonus of 3.1 percent of proceeds from the walk.
Earlier records show a more complete picture. The 2010 AIDS Walk pulled in $6,425,557, with $2,226,131 going toward expenses and $4,199,426 retained by GMHC - meaning the expenses cost roughly 35 percent of revenue. In 2009, expenses totaled 38.7 percent of revenue.
MZA took in $408,633 as a fee in 2010, but the walk also paid nearly $800,000 for the company's salaries and benefits, records show.
MZA's track record is reportedly worse elsewhere. The company came under fire in San Francisco, after 58 percent of donations from its 2011 AIDS Walk there went to expenses. MZA cut ties with its longtime nonprofit partner on the event, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, in December.
And in 2010, only 48.78 percent of donations raised by the MZA-organized AIDS Walk in Los Angeles went to AIDS Project Los Angeles, according to a report by the California Attorney General.
Calls to Craig R. Miller, MZA's president and CEO, were not returned.
The company's earnings were sent to a number of GMHC members in a recent email questioning MZA's continuing role as a partner with the nonprofit.
"It was extremely disturbing to find that in some AIDS Walks events organized by MZA. Sixty cents of every dollar someone thought they were giving to fight HIV/AIDS - instead was going to a for-profit company, that provides no such services," the email said.
Insiders at GMHC said they didn't even know that MZA was involved in the AIDS Walk, and had assumed the nonprofit organized it on its own.
"Most people think the AIDS Walk is GMHC - if you're giving money to the AIDS Walk, you're giving it to GMHC," a GMHC official said.
"But at least 35 to 40 percent is not going to GMHC. Why donate to the AIDS Walk when you can just donate to GMHC?"
But Rosen, the GMHC development director, said the event could not be organized in-house.
"This is an event that attracts 45,000 people," he said. "We only have two people on our event staff."
The 2013 New York AIDS Walk kicks off on May 19.
Marjorie Hill, Gay Men's Health Crisis CEO, Forced Out After Angering Clients, Staff: Report
By Mathew Katz, DNA Info
CHELSEA - The head of the city's largest AIDS service organization was forced out by the board of directors after she angered clients and staff, DNAinfo New York has learned.
Gay Men's Health Crisis announced Monday that CEO Marjorie Hill would leave the organization after seven years at the helm, describing the move as a mutual decision between Hill and the board.
But sources within the organization said GMHC chairman Mickey Rolfe and the board ousted Hill amid accusations that she had harmed the decades-old organization by costing it millions of dollars in grants, losing dozens of talented staffers through layoffs and using an acidic management style.
"We couldn't keep a CEO there who had such a contemptuous relationship to staff and clients," said one insider, who asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
Hill did not respond to requests for comment.
The executive's problems at GMHC, which provides health and social services to HIV-positive people and organizes the city's annual AIDS Walk, began to come to a head in July, when staff learned Hill would take a paid three-month sabbatical - just one week after many staffers had their salaries slashed, sources said.
Hill, who was paid more than $230,000 in 2012, according to tax documents, departed as staffers were seething about the news their salaries would be cut and their annual health care costs would rise by $1,000, sources said.
As a consolation, staff members were told they would get free tickets to "Let it Be," a Broadway tribute to the Beatles.
"That was the last straw," one employee said. "That money to pay her, when she was useless to us on a sabbatical, it should have gone to help restore our pay."
In early September, a group of concerned staffers and former employees sent Rolfe a letter saying they had "lost confidence in the leadership of Marjorie Hill" and GMHC's chief operating officer Janet Weinberg, sources said. The letter, a copy of which was obtained by DNAinfo New York, demanded that both of the women resign.
Weinberg has since been tapped to take over the organization while the board searches for a replacement, GHMC said.
The letter also slammed the organization's much-heralded new offices on West 33rd Street, where GMHC moved from West 24th Street in 2011. The space, which is significantly larger than the former office, is filled with empty cubicles, enraging critics.
"If we were to cut this space my half, we could save millions annually," the letter said. "We believe that Hill/Weinberg [have] squandered millions on wasteful and unnecessary space and must be held accountable."
GMHC was accused of doling out free office space in the new venue, in what critics called a "sweetheart deal" with MZA Events, a private company that organizes and profits from AIDS Walk.
The new office came under fire from a group of clients earlier this year because of a separate entrance that HIV-positive people were forced to use if they wanted to access GMHC services. Civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel picked up the cause of the clients, calling the entrance "troubling."
In a statement, Rolfe said that Hill had "a great run with us" and "left a significant mark on GMHC's evolution." He added that the board's focus is on the future.
"The graciousness of our staff, even in the admittedly disappointing face of funding cuts on the public and personal levels, refreshes our energy and catalyzes each one of us to give 110 percent of ourselves to fighting the good fight," Rolfe said. "I don't mind saying we're proud of our GMHC, and we deserve to be."
The letter to Rolfe from current and former workers also accused Hill and Weinberg of artificially inflating the number of clients GMHC serves by counting people more than once if they receive more than one service, for example getting an HIV test and also getting a free meal.
Those counts allowed GMHC to claim in fundraising documents that it serves 10,000 people a year, the letter said.
"As staff representing practically every unit of GMHC, we estimate that GMHC serves in any meaningful way between 1,000 and 2,000 clients annually," the letter said. "This represents around 1 percent of everyone with HIV in New York City."
In addition, the letter's authors warned that the cash-strapped GMHC lost out on major substance abuse, HIV prevention and youth contracts, the letter said, which could have generated nearly $10 million in funding.
Some clients, staff members and insiders painted Hill as an effective fundraiser with high-profile friends, but said she struggled to run the organization and deal with its longtime base of clients.
"She was very hard to deal with," said Myron Gold, 72, a 20-year client of GMHC and member of its Consumer Advisory Board, which is made up of GMHC clients.
"Her treatment of the clients here, at least for me, it wasn't up to par - she wanted to run the thing, but she didn't want the input from us."
The letter from staffers and former employees provided a list of names of dozens of ex-employees who it said quit the organization "in total despair and frustration" - including the entirety of two departments, Health Informatics and Institutional Giving.
Staff members were laid off, and vacant positions were not being filled due to a lack of funding, sources said.
One of the former employees named in the letter denied the characterization of his departure, saying he left his role as GMHC's director of public policy because a better career opportunity presented itself.
"I had a very rewarding experience with the leadership," said Nathan Schaefer, who is now the executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda.
"I think Marjorie is a great leader and she showed tremendous vision for the HIV community and the movement," Schaefer said. "I've long admired her."
EXCLUSIVE: GMHC Ousts Marjorie Hill After Seven Years
September 18, 2013.
BY SAM SPOKONY | Gay Men's Health Crisis, the nation's oldest non-profit organization dedicated to ending the HIV/ AIDS epidemic and supporting those affected by it, announced on September 13 that its CEO for the past seven years, Dr. Marjorie Hill, will step down at the end of this month.
Contrary to a press release stating that Hill's departure was a mutual decision between her and GMHC's 25-member board of directors, sources within the organization told this newspaper that Hill was, in fact, fired by the board.
"Hill was completely blindsided by the firing, since she believed that she had solid core support on the board," said a source, who asked to remain anonymous due to professional concerns, via email on September 15, adding that the ouster was initially orchestrated about six months ago by board chair Myron Sulzberger Rolfe and his board colleague Manuel Rivera.
Despite release citing amicable parting, sources confirm departure was orchestrated by leaders of the board
Rivera is also chair of GMHC's Consumer Advisory Board (CAB), a group that advocates for the organization's clients and is made up of clients, staff, volunteers, and community partners.
Many of those connected to GMHC have said that Hill's relationships with staff and clients have become extremely contentious.
"It's been a rough tenure, especially over the past year, and the clients just feel like [Hill] hasn't been responsive to their needs, even though she does plenty of fundraising," said Joseph Sellman, another member of the CAB. "A lot of us could tell that this was in the works."
Myron Gold, a CAB member and a client for the past 20 years, said that the damaged relationship was most clearly expressed at a July 23 mayoral candidate forum held at GMHC. When candidate Bill Thompson said during the forum that, if elected, he would put Hill on the city's AIDS advisory board, the mention of her name drew loud boos throughout the room.
"I'll never forget that, because the candidates were so stunned and it was just such an embarrassment," Gold said. "On top of that, a lot of board members were there, so it really looked bad."
Rivera declined to comment on the issue, instead referring the reporter to Rolfe, who acts as spokesperson for the board of directors.
Rolfe denied that the board fired Hill during a September 16 phone interview that was closely supervised by a senior manager at GMHC.
However, Rolfe did acknowledge that he received a letter earlier this year from a group of GMHC staff members, which declared that the staff had "lost confidence" in the leadership of Hill and chief operating officer Janet Weinberg.
The reporter learned through a source outside the board that Rolfe, Rivera, and the rest of the board had to sign a non-disclosure contract as a result of an agreement that bound them to secrecy about the events of the firing in exchange for Hill's quiet departure.
A second GMHC source confirmed every detail provided by the first source.
According to the sources, another stipulation of that agreement allowed Weinberg to avoid being fired as well, and she is currently serving as interim CEO until the board decides on a new hire for the leadership position.
Hill, who is African American, threatened to sue the board - which is mostly comprised of white males - for racial discrimination once it was clear she would be fired, according to the sources.
Hill could not be reached for comment on that, because she is currently out of the country on a sabbatical that began on July 1 and which will continue until the end of her tenure on September 29.
Before becoming the CEO of GMHC in 2006, Hill served as the organization's managing director for community health.
She also previously served as assistant commissioner for the Bureau of HIV/AIDS at the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Hill first became a high profile leader in the LGBT community when she served as Mayor David Dinkins' gay liaison two decades ago.
In October 2012, Hill was appointed chair of the New York State AIDS Advisory Council by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Weinberg lauded Hill's seven years as CEO of GMHC.
"In the world of HIV/ AIDS, she's renowned," Weinberg said. "I think she's raised the issue for black people in this epidemic and really set a precedent for making sure that HIV services were all-inclusive, regardless of race, sexual orientation, mental health, and substance use issues."
One of the most significant changes made by Hill during her tenure was the decision, in 2010, to move GMHC from its longtime home at 119 West 24th Street to new offices at 450 West 33rd Street, after the rent was raised significantly.
The result of that move was unpopular among some AIDS activists, including GMHC co-founder Larry Kramer, mainly because of restrictions placed on the organization within the new location, such as the inability to provide medical services on-site.
Online Clients comments:
"I AM JUST FINALLY GLAD THAT SHE IS GONE. I JUST HOPE THAT THE REST OF HER CONSTITUENTS WILL FOLLOW. IT SADDENS ME THAT SO MUCH MONEY HAS BEEN WASTED ON KEE BALLS, LATEX BALLS AND VOGUING CLASSES; WHEN THE COMMUNITY NEEDS JOB TRAINING, G.E.D CLASSES AND WHEN IT COMES TO HIV/ AIDS, THEY NEED NEW AND IMPROVE PROGRAMS. FUNDING HAD BEEN CUT FOR THE FOOD PROGRAM FOR THE HOME BOUND PATIENTS WITH AIDS, BUT YET THEY SPENT EXTRA MONEY ON A BALL. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE. NEEDLESS TO SAY ALL THE PEOPLE/ BENEFACTORS THAT SUPPORT THE AIDS WALK, DID NOT KNOW THAT ALL THEIR CONTRIBUTIONS DID NOT DIRECTLY GO TO HELPING THE HIV/AIDS CRISIS; RATHER A GOOD AMOUNT OF MONEY WENT TO SUPPORT PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS FOR ADVERTISEMENT RATHER THAN COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS. THIS IS SAD. AND HOW DOES ONE NOT FORGET THAT THE GMHC IS BEING SUED BECAUSE OF DISCRIMINATION , HAVING HIV/AIDS CLIENTS ENTER THROUGH THE BACK DOOR INSTEAD OF THE FRONT DOOR. NOW THEY ARE CHARGING FOR HIV TESTING, THEY SERVE ALCOHOL AT THE LATEX BALL JUST TO RAISE MONEY WHEN ITS STATED IN THEIR GUIDELINES THAT THEY'RE EVENTS ARE FREE AND WITH NO DRUGS OR ALCOHOL. BUT YET THEY ALSO CHARGED ADMISSION FOR THE LATEX BALL EVENT. THIS COMMUNITY HAS BEEN HANDLED IN A VERY DESPICABLE MANNER. I AM GLAD TO SEE HER GO AND AGAIN I PRAY THAT THE OTHER CONSTITUENTS WILL FOLLOW...ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. P.S POLITICS IS SO DISAPPOINTING WHEN YOU HAVE POLITICAL FIGURES WHO TURN THE OTHER CHEEK AND PRETEND THAT THEY DON'T SEE WHAT'S GOING ON. HEAVEN KNOWS HOW MANY PEOPLE LINE THEIR POCKETS WITH AIDS FUNDING.."
"Finally after all these years people come forward to share the truth and are talking about the scams by GMHC the community has been talking about for a decade, public officials, lgbt leaders and many org's knew about it for years and they all turned a blind eye. With all the scams that have been revealed in the news about GMHC lately, not ONE word yet about the abuse and marginalizing policies by GMHC and their Club 1319 youth program yet, that includes the Latex Ball. They cut food money for their clients for prize money for the Latex Ball, its a disgrace. The nerve of COO Janet Weinberg to call for a meeting to talk about the new leadership at GMHC, the ballroom community did not receive an invitation nor have we received an apology from her or GMHC, Weinberg is corrupted and didn't speak up then and she got to go. Somebody from the GMHC board please give her a pink slip also for all the lies and miss-representations. Lets keep it real and pass Weinberg the pink slip."