There are reportedly more staff and administrative concerns at Chicago's Howard Brown Health Center. HBHC was rocked by financial scandal last year and attorney Jamal Edwards was recruited in June 2010 to lead the institution. Edwards became the first Black to head the largest LGBT health center in the Midwest.
HBHC has been rocked by several high-level staff turnovers in recent weeks, reports Yasmin Nair at Windy City Times.
Edwards brought on new members of the executive team, including Chief Financial Officer Editha Paras and Chief Development Officer Chuck Benya. In an interview with Windy City Times at the time, he spoke of his confidence in both. So it came as a surprise to many when it was announced that both were departing. Paras was put on administrative leave and left soon thereafter, and Benya resigned.
Dr. Robert Garofalo—then chief research officer at HBHC [and] medical director of adolescent HIV services at Children's Memorial Hospital [has also departed] and taken his research projects, including 12 researchers and a significant amount of research funding, to Children's Memorial."
Edwards' uncharacteristic response to the departures have raised questions:
Windy City Times was forwarded an email dated May 3, sent by Edwards to the closed Yahoo! group C3EO, whose membership consists of the directors of nonprofits in the Chicago area.
In it, Edwards wrote, "It's come to my attention that a few of our former employees—and 'former' for very good reasons—may have been seeking employment with some of your agencies. I think we all benefit from this list by sharing information of all kinds, and particularly about resources, including human resources. So I'd like to offer myself as a resource in that regard regarding any former employees of HBHC whom you might encounter. Many of you know that since I joined HBHC we've had to do a lot of clean up, coming out of a very troubled past. Please feel free to check with me before hiring any senior level person who list[s] HBHC as a former employer or mentions as a reference or other affiliate. Email, call [...], snail mail, is fine. I'll be happy to share what I know. After having a few recently of my own, I'd be happy to help others avoid a bad experience if I can. Hope we can all do that in return."
The email provoked some anxiety and shock amongst community leaders and former employees. Of these, only Benya would speak briefly on the record, saying, "In my opinion, Howard Brown needs a leader dedicated to the organization. Jamal Edwards' message to the C3EO message board is disturbing and yet not surprising. It reflects that Jamal Edwards is wasting his resources when he should be focused on the viability of the organization."
Attorneys have suggested that the email is "unusual" but "does not, so far, appear on its face to have violated legal standards, particularly since Edwards did not name any employees."
Other emails have indicated that Howard Brown is cutting back on case managers. HIV-positive adults and youth in need of case management are being referred elsewhere.
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