At its meeting tonight, The Pride Center’s Board of Directors voted not to terminate the employment of Robert Boo, the organization’s executive director.
Boo has been embroiled in controversy for not taking action sooner to terminate the employment of a registered sex offender, Clarence Collins, who raped an 11-year-old girl in the mid-90s and threatened “to kill her if she told.” Children regularly visit the Pride Center and use its playground. Boo, admitted he knew of Collins’ sex offender history all along, just not the details of the crime, and wanted to give him a second chance. But once the playground was installed Collins’ employment at the center was no longer legal since sex offenders aren’t allowed to work near anywhere children gather. Boo later claimed ignorance of the law.
In a press release, it was stated the vote to retain Boo was “not unanimous.” But, details on how each board member voted were not released by The Pride Center at press time. Following that vote, the board unanimously voted to censure Boo and that formal disciplinary action will be taken. The decision on that action will take place at a board meeting scheduled for Monday, April 23.
Since the controversy began, Boo has faced calls from the community and at least one board member to resign. Pride Board Member Jim Walker has also called on Boo to resign. “I am ready to call for resignation. This was a clear lack of judgement on Robert’s part.”
Boo apologized Tuesday night to a crowd at the “Founders Circle Reception” held at Rosie’s Bar & Grill in Wilton Manors. “We learn from our mistakes and obviously the reason we are here tonight is so I can very publicly, very openly, apologize.”
Members of the public who showed up to tonight’s meeting were angry when they discovered they weren’t allowed to attend.
“That’s what you do when you’re scared,” said Dawn Holloway, a parent and grandparent. Holloway said she doesn’t know who on the board has children, but she’s sure that not having children might be influencing their thought process.
Other individuals, some who are parents and some who aren’t, also showed up to the meeting, which was taken into a closed “executive session” as soon as the public was allowed to enter the room where it was being held. As soon as the “executive session” was called, members of the public were asked to leave.
“Even if you’re not a mom, you’re still justified in being here. This is supposed to be a safe space,” said Amber Taylor, a mother. Taylor and others told SFGN they think Boo should be fired or resign. “I think he made a huge mistake,” she said.
John Grzeszczak compared the situation to the decades-long cover up the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston committed to protect priests who raped and molested children. He said it was Boo’s duty to protect the children who came to the Pride Center, either to use the playground or for some other reason, and that his failure threatens to further stigmatize the LGBT community, which in the past has been accused of pedophilia. “How can we say we’re safe [for children]?”
Richard Alalouf, a father, the executive director of South Florida Family Pride, and the person who brought the issue to the attention of SFGN, said he was “dismayed and shocked” the meeting was closed to the public. “Not once did they mention they were going to close this. It’s a little insulting.”
Alalouf, whose employer Jet Blue was the main corporate sponsor for the playground, built in 2015, said there’s “no question” Boo has to resign. “He put our kids in harms way without us knowing.” By not firing Boo, Alalouf added that now the entire board is part of the controversy. “Originally, it was Robert Boo. Now it’s they.”
One community member, who asked not to have their name published, said they suspect “the community might call for a number of members of the board to resign.”