Meeting ends in shouting, threats to quit and a possible violation of its own bylaws

Divided over when to hold elections, Pride Fort Lauderdale’s Monday board meeting included shouting, cursing, a walk -out and promises by various board members to resign.

Norm Kent, president of Pride Fort Lauderdale and SFGN publisher, said suspending the elections was vital to keeping Pride, held in October, alive for next year. New members, more representative of the diversity of the community, are needed, he argued. “You can’t elect the same people over and over again. You might as well be committing suicide . . . you will ensure the organization has no community support.”

Other board members agreed with Kent on the group’s image in the community.

“The community is fed up with us,” Roger Handevidt said. “We’re not very liked right now,” added Sonia Mitchell.

Miik Martorell agreed that new blood was needed but argued that a core group of board members should have been elected Monday and more members recruited from the community at a later date.

He also accused Kent of violating the by-laws by postponing the election. Kent responded that he wasn’t changing the by-laws, only delaying the elections. Pride’s by-laws state that annual election of board members shall be no earlier than July 1 and no later than Aug. 1 unless a 2/3 vote occurs. The vote was 4-3 in favor of suspending the elections until January.

Those against the election delay also argued that the process has been too open to the community in the past. Martorell said some past board members were brought on just to “help pad votes.” Barrie Wood said he’s barely known some of the board members and that some just bought their way into the organization. “Money talks, bullshit walks.”

The conversation seemed heated almost from the start but tempers flared after Kent criticized some board members on their level of commitment. Wood left the meeting, telling everyone he was resigning. But Kent noted that he had actually quit during the middle of the event in October.

“Fuck this,” Wood said while leaving.

Others said they also felt disrespected. “I’m pretty sad for everything going on here,” said Luciano Retondaro. “I’m not taken seriously. I’m disrespected.”

Former Pride president Bonnie Majcher said she was “sad to see the level of hostility” and called for compromise.

Other board members, even those did not express disagreement with Kent, said they would quit or were thinking of quitting. “I cannot sit through these types of meetings again,” said Rocky Bowell.

“Everybody hates you,” said Martorell to Kent. He accused Kent of dividing the community and stunting the progress of the board by making it too open to the public and setting next year’s event up for failure by bringing in unqualified people. “Many of us you will probably never see again.”

Martorell also criticized the decision to leave Pride’s office on Northeast 13 Street as one that should have been made by the board. Kent defended the decision, saying it was made by the executive board to save money.

In addition to elections in January, Pride will also hold a forum where members of the community can offer ideas on how to improve the event.

“Let them roast us. Tells us what’s wrong,” Kent said.