PHOTO: TIME OUT CHICAGO
Jamal M. Edwards has abruptly resigned as president and CEO of Chicago's Howard Brown Health Center over the holiday weekend. HBHC is the largest LGBT-focused health clinic in the Midwest. Edwards' became the 38-year-old agency's first Black president in June 2010. Edwards two-year tenure has been rocky and numerous staff have exited.
The surprise announcement was first reported late Friday evening by the Windy City Times, which also noted that several other senior staffers were also leaving the troubled agency.
Edwards made $265,000, an amount that has been controversial given his lack of experience in healthcare and that he had no experience in the non-profit world. ... It is still unclear if Edwards resigned or was dismissed by the board; WCT has heard from several sources that he attempted to rescind his initial resignation but the board, reportedly, decided to accept his resignation, citing the loss of the MACS grant and undue amounts of negative publicity in the past many months.
Rumors are also afoot that several other staff members have gone, under circumstances that are still the object of speculation. Among them is Will Raj, vice president and chief administrative officer. Two of his subordinates were [allegedly] let go by Edwards before his own departure. The departure of so many members of the technical support staff could mean that the agency has been brought to a standstill, given that data and information management is a crucial part of its business.
While Edwards has consistently reported on the positive financial developments at the organization, his tenure has been marked by several departures on all levels, nearly 60 by most counts. They included high-level and respected medical experts.
Edwards was an attorney at Kirkland & Ellis—and acting as HBHC's general counsel—when he was recruited in June 2010 to lead the troubled institution. Auditors found that HBHC owed $1.1M to the federal government and $1.7M to Northwestern University for misappropriating funds. Edwards announced earlier this year that the agency now boasts a $1.2M surplus. But the surplus has "come at the cost of cutting healthcare for staff," reports Windy City Times.
Edwards' selection as CEO reflected the changing demographic of the HIV epidemic in Chicago and HBHC's client base. The New York Times aplauded the hire and profiled Edwads in December 2010. Expectations gradually changed around Edwards. Time Out Chicago published a devastating profile of Edwards' controversial management style in June 2012 titled "Can Howard Brown Survive Jamal Edwards?"