The New York Times profiles the financial scandal at the Howard Brown Health Center—"a longtime pillar of Chicago’s gay and lesbian community"—and its newish CEO Jamal Edwards. Edwards, an attorney who took over in June after the ouster of the last CEO, is the first Black to head the venerable institution, the largest LGBT health center in the Midwest.
"There is a history of mismanagement," Mr. Edwards said in an interview on Monday. Mr. Edwards ... exuded a quiet confidence as he talked about past financial problems and missed opportunities for growth. He refused to assign blame for the current mess.
Last spring, the news broke in the Windy City Times, a gay advocacy newspaper, that the center was under investigation by the National Institutes of Health for allegedly misusing money meant to finance an AIDS study. Many people around the city were angered by the reports. Although an internal investigation found that there was no intentional wrongdoing or “misappropriation for personal gain,” the center said that in October the matter was referred to investigators in the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the N.I.H. The institutes’ Office of Extramural Research said it would not comment on whether it is conducting a review.
Numerous people in the gay community pointed fingers at Michael C. Cook, who was the chief executive of Howard Brown. Mr. Cook’s 2005 appointment was hailed as a fresh start for the center, which was reeling from the arrest of a senior development officer on drug possession charges, followed quickly by the previous chief executive’s forced resignation. Mr. Cook, who could not be reached for comment on this story, was widely credited with boosting the center’s visibility and recruiting more minorities and women. ...
Mr. Edwards, meanwhile, had been appointed to the Howard Brown board in March as a nonvoting member. Formerly a litigator at Kirkland & Ellis, he also briefly served as the center’s pro bono general counsel. He was named chief executive and president in June. His first six months on the job have been eventful. In August, the N.I.H. compelled Howard Brown to turn over the balance of an ongoing federal AIDS study grant to Northwestern University, its longtime research partner.
The $539,000 transfer was a substantial blow to the center’s roughly $12.5 million annual operating budget. Howard Brown’s management eliminated 10 positions and curtailed employees’ health benefits earlier this year, then decided to replace the lost money through the $500,000 donation drive. As of Wednesday, the total raised was just over $400,000, and Editha Paras, the chief financial officer, said she was confident they would reach their goal by Thursday’s deadline.
Edwards' selection as CEO also reflects the changing demographic of the HIV epidemic in Chicago and HBHC's client base.
There was also some intrigue between Edwards and Rick Garcia, the veteran Chicago-based gay activist who was abruptly terminated last week from his position as public policy director at Equality Illinois. Garcia was publicly critical of Edwards and some—including Garcia—speculate that may have lead to his dismissal.
Read the full profile at the Times ...