Compass Board 'Too Busy' to Talk to Public, Press

Tony Plakas at the Compass. Photo: Facebook.

Compass spent most of 2017 celebrating Tony Plakas’ 20 years with the organization. In January of 2018 he was gone – with no fan fare, no passing of the baton, not even a press release. It even took Compass weeks to update their website to reflect his departure.

Plakas was Compass’ chief executive officer.

He didn’t respond to multiple requests for interviews, but Julie Seaver, Compass’ executive director and acting CEO, insisted Plakas’ departure was mutual.

“Basically, he and the board decided to end his contract. It was a little unexpected, but I’m excited. We’re excited . . . The sustainability of the organization is at an all-time high,” said Seaver. She said that Plakas’ replacement will be chosen at the organization’s April 11 annual board meeting and that Compass’ was looking forward to the future and was pleased with how Palm Beach Pride went. “We’re pretty excited.”

After the initial went online on Friday SFGN followed up asking for an interview with a member of the board. Seaver said the board probably would not get back to SFGN in time to meet the newspaper’s deadline.

“I have a board full of CPA's and Auditors that are in the middle of their busiest time of year and the board's process is on their timetable and not the public or SFGN's timetable,” Seaver said.

SFGN reached out to BoardSource, a non-profit dedciated to empowering boards and inspiring leadership, for their reaction to Seaver's respose. 

"What we always say is non-profits are accountable to the public’s trust," said Andy Davis, the director of education for BoardSouce. "That doesn’t necessary mean they are on your timbale. But I would encourage them to be as transparent as they can." 

Last year, though, the chairman of the board Michael Grattendick had lots to say about Plakas. 

“We’re in a better place than we’ve been in years. And it’s because of his leadership skills and vision,” he told SFGN last May. “He has the ability to tailor the message to any component of the community whether it’s the youth, volunteers, major contributors, individuals, organizations. He has an ability to meet with any of the constituents, and tailor a message they respond to.” 

According to Compass’ website the other board members include Kerensa Butler-Gile, Marc Pickering, Michael Woods, Nicole Leidesdorf Marulli, and Clarence Brooks.

Plakas’ departure raised questions about his salary.

According to the latest tax documents SFGN was able to obtain, Plakas earned $126,000 in 2015. In previous years, his salary was lower. In other years, it was higher. In 2009, it was $90,857. In 2012, it was $142,830. In 2013, it was $112,000. In 2014, it was $130,500.

Other salaries in 2015 made by directors of LGBT centers in other parts of the state and the country include $217,194 at the LGBT Community Center in New York, $85,107 at the William Way LGBT Community Center in Philadelphia, $125,340 at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center, $204,267 at the Center on Halstead in Chicago, and $106,000 at the Pride Center in Wilton Manors.

Someone familiar with the organization, who asked not to have his name published, stated he thought Plakas’ salary should be lower compared to some of the other LGBT and non-LGBT organizations because their budgets are bigger.

As an example, he pointed to the director of the Palm Beach County Library System who makes $129,163 and oversees a budget of $52.7 million. Compass’ budget for 2015 was $1.6 million. The Pride Center’s budget is $2.3 million. The San Francisco LGBT Community Center has a budget of $3.8 million. The LGBT Community Center has a $9.3 million budget.

“There just seems to be a disparity.” He stressed that his interest in Plakas’ salary was because he wants to see Compass do well as an organization. “We’re looking for Compass to survive and thrive.”

“This was a topic that was brought up,” stated Seaver, who said that Plakas’ salary was commensurate with directors of other LGBT organizations. She said that a lot of work and responsibility goes into the CEO position. “Fiduciary oversight is an extreme responsibility and they take that responsibility very seriously.”

For Plakas’ 20 year anniversary SFGN profiled the former CEO and when asked about his future with the organization he declined to comment instead saying “I serve at the pleasure of a board of trustees…so I am not going to jinx myself on that one.” 

UPDATE on May 2: Recently Compass informed SFGN two of thier statements were taken out of context. "The way [Julie Seaver] was quoted in the article made it sound as if she were excited about Tony’s leaving, which was not the case." The second statement is in regards to when the next CEO would be chosen: "Julie responded that it would be at a future board meeting. Julie was then asked when the next board meeting would be held, and she answered April 11th. [The reporter] conflated those two independent statements so that it appeared Julie had said the board would be choosing a new CEO on April 11th. This was not the case."

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