The apologies came in spades Tuesday night in Wilton Manors.
The Chief Executive Officer of The Pride Center, Robert Boo, apologized repeatedly to a crowd at a “Founders Circle Reception,” held at Rosie’s Bar & Grill on Wilton Drive.
“We learn from our mistakes and obviously the reason we are here tonight is so I can very publically, very openly, apologize,” Boo said to a crowd of dozens of board members, founders, staff and others at Rosie’s.
“ … Because of some decisions that I made with the information that I had, I brought a black cloud to the center,” he continued.
While Boo did not directly describe the incident that brought on his apology, his comments stem from a week’s long controversy involving former employee, Clarence Collins, who is on the sex offender registry.
Collins, 63, is a convicted sex predator who worked at the Pride Center in some capacity since 2003, until he was fired on March 19. Collins confessed to raping an 11-year-old girl in the mid-90s as well as threatening “to kill her if she told.”
Board member Jim Walker recently called for Boo’s resignation and said he and some other board members did not feel a public letter Boo emailed to supporters April 13 was appropriate, and that the board should be taking lead on handling this situation.
According to Walker, Boo told the board he was not able to bring Collins’ sex predator status to the board because it was a “personnel issue.”
However, Collins is listed on a public sex offender registry list that the public has access to.
At the Founders Circle Reception, Boo reiterated the board was appointing a task force in response to the situation.
“One of the outcomes from this whole encounter is the board has taken the direction to create a task force of experts out in our community to help look at our policies, our procedures, our safety practices — so that we can be inclusive to the entire community no matter what their socio-economic situation is,” Boo said. “Whether it’s children, whether it’s seniors — we need to provide that safe space.”
Boo ended his comments to loud applause from what appeared to be most of those in attendance.
“… I just want you to hear it from me — we always try to tell the founders first — and so I’m here to say thank you. … from the bottom of my heart, thank you for all of your past support over the years and I hope that you can continue to support the center as we move forward,” he said.
Boo’s full comments at the reception are below.
Everything happens for a reason. We learn from our mistakes, and obviously the reason we are here tonight is so I can very publically, very openly, apologize.
First to our board of directors, who have given their time, their talent and their treasure to help make the center run. They are all volunteers, they give their time. And because of some decisions that I made with the information that I had, I brought a black cloud to the center.
And so I openly apologize to our board of directors. I openly apologize to our 39 paid staff for my error, and I apologize to the 300 volunteers who give their talent to help make the center the place that it is.
We impact the lives of thousands of individuals, and because of a bad decision on my part; I brought a dark cloud to the center. And so for you, our founders, who give their talent, you give your donations so that we can make the magic work, I apologize to my founders because over the last 12 years I have worked to ensure that we provide the best possible space for our community.
So it just seems fitting that I’m in a very public restaurant, that I’m making this apology to you. Lessons learned from this whole issue will only make the center a much stronger, much [more] vibrant place for our community.
The board has, one of the outcomes from this whole encounter, is the board has taken the direction to create a task force of experts out in our community to help look at our policies, our procedures, our safety practices, so that we can be inclusive to the entire community no matter what their socio-economic situation is. Whether it’s children, whether it’s seniors, we need to provide that safe space.
So, from the bottom of my heart I ask for your forgiveness. I apologize if I’ve lost your trust and I’ve put this black cloud over the center and I hope that you will continue to support the center, because the center is more than just one person. It takes a whole community; it takes a whole village for the center to be the wonderful place that we have envisioned and the wonderful place that we want it to be in years to come.
So, I thank you. I apologize. I want to be a part of the solution to make it better and if that’s what God is willing me to do, that’s what I’ll do. But I just want you to hear it from me, we always try to tell the founders first, and so I’m here to say thank you. So if you have any questions or have any concerns, if you have anything you’d like to say please speak to me afterwards, but from the bottom of my heart, thank you for all of your past support over the years and I hope that you can continue to support the center as we move forward. Thank you.”