LONG BEACH — Three complaints were filed against the executive director of the Long Beach LGBTQ Center four months before he was put on leave pending an investigation into allegations of racism and a hostile work environment.
One employee and two former employees filed complaints against Porter Gilberg, the Center’s executive director, in February.
On June 26, an open letter written by 14 former employees was given to the Center’s board of directors and posted on social media by a group called Save The Center LB. The group accused Gilberg of abusive behavior and misogyny and said he should be fired. The group also gave the board a list of 60 specific allegations against Gilberg.
Gilberg was placed on leave three days later. The Center board appointed Andrew Dorado, the chief financial officer and general counsel, as the interim executive director.
An independent investigator is expected to submit their findings by the end of the month, said Center spokesman Andy Perez.
“The focus of the investigation is to look into the allegations raised,” Perez said. “As a result of the findings, changes to the organization may be made. The investigator is talking with current and former employees to better understand the allegations.”
Perez doesn’t know if the three complaintants from February are among the 14 former employees who signed the letter in June. Perez wouldn’t discuss the content of the three complaints.
Gilberg’s two-year contract with the Center expires this month and will be extended week-to-week until the investigation is finished, Perez said.
After the findings have been submitted, the board will consult with staff on a plan of action to foster a positive and safe working environment, Perez said.
In its letter, the 14 former employees made several recommendations to The Center:
- Adopt a formal review process of exit interviews
- Create a diverse stakeholder advisory council to ensure accountability for The Center’s commitment to its values of anti-racism, inclusivity and social justice
- Conduct “bi-yearly” reviews of the executive director using anonymous employee input
The Center has hired a human resources company that will start working with the organization at the end of the month. The Center has never had a human resources department or employee on staff.
“The Center wants to make their functions more professional,” Perez said.
Shortly after the board received the three complaints in February, president Stella Ursua opened an internal investigation and reached out to Gilberg’s accusers. The investigation, however, was put on hold in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In June, Ursua contacted Gilberg’s accusers to continue the internal investigation, but when the open letter was shared, the investigator took over the complaints.
Perez said that Ursa waited three months to contact Gilberg’s complainants because the board and staff had shifted focus to keep services operating and to ensure that employees would continue to be paid.
But board members shouldn’t handle the day-to-day operations, according to the National Council of Nonprofits.
“Board members are the fiduciaries who steer the organization toward a sustainable future by adopting sound, ethical, and legal governance and financial management policies,” according to its website.
One of the most important responsibilities for a board is to hire and set the compensation for an executive director to run the day-to-day management activities of the organization.
“When paid staff is in place,” according to the National Council of Nonprofits, “rather than steer the boat by managing day-to-day operations, board members provide foresight, oversight, and insight.”