Editor’s note: The story has been updated with a statement from Porter Gilberg.
The employment contract for LGBTQ Center Long Beach’s Executive Director Porter Gilberg will not be renewed, the Board of Directors announced in a press release, effective Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020.
“A national search process led by an executive search firm and the Board of Directors, with input from Center management, will begin immediately,” the press release said.
“The fundamental goal of a LGBTQ Center is to be a safe space for clients as well as staff,” Board President Stella Ursua said. “We want to ensure the environment at the LGBTQ Center Long Beach is consistent with The Center’s values and mission of embodying a culturally inclusive community. We are determined to continue to grow for our staff and our clients in the Greater Long Beach area.”
According to the press release, Gilberg had been on administrative leave since June 29, 2020, after a letter from SaveTheCenterLB addressed to the Board detailed accusations of alleged racist and sexist behavior by Gilberg.
The Board went on to hire independent counsel and an outside private investigator to look into the allegations cited by 14 former employees, in response. The press release also stated that an internal investigation had been launched in late February following three complaints but was put on hold due to challenges the organization faced by the pandemic. The press release went on to state that a Human Resources firm was contracted in early August to oversee human resource functions for the Center.
According to the press release, while Gilberg was on administrative leave, through “an external independent investigation,” the Board found that Gilberg’s values did not align with those of The Center.
“As a consequence, the Board has elected to move forward with the search for a new executive director,” the press release said.
Gilberg began his time at the LGBTQ Center Long Beach as a volunteer in 2007 and moved up through staff positions until becoming executive director in the year 2014.
“The Board recognizes Mr. Gilberg’s many achievements during his tenure,” Ursua added. According to the press release, during Gilberg’s tenure from 2015 to 2019, The Center’s annual revenue doubled resulting in $2 million and full-time employees increased from 14 to 26.
“However, the Board believes it is time for a new leader to build on our spectacular growth and improve the workplace culture to reflect our values of strength through diversity and being a safe haven where people can thrive.”
In a statement dated from Sept. 1, Porter Gilberg said, “The LGBTQ Center Long Beach has been at the core of my life for nearly 15 years. Today I learned that I would not continue as the Executive Director of The Center because its Board chose to end my employment rather than stand up to the online bullies who have falsely accused me of inappropriate conduct.”
Gilberg continued, “At the beginning of this process, I told the media that I would not comment on the situation because the Board had asked me not to and because I had hoped that a fair, thorough investigation would clear my name so that I could continue the critical work of The Center. Now I know that there was never any hope for a fair investigation. Despite The Center’s initial internal investigation finding no evidence to substantiate the claims made against me in February, I was placed on administrative leave in June 2020 pending a third party investigator’s conclusions. The Center approached this situation with a singular goal in mind, and it comes as no surprise that the investigation the Board commissioned arrived at their pre-ordained conclusion.”
“I cannot express the deep pain The Center’s Board has caused me with this betrayal. I was assured a fair process, and instead I was ambushed with ludicrous accusations during the investigation and then had my rebutting evidence dismissed without consideration. I stood ready with text messages, witnesses, and photos to prove the allegations against me were categorically untrue. I offered them to the investigator, but they ignored the offer and did not interview key eyewitnesses I identified.”
Gilberg concluded, “I want my community to know that despite The Center’s recent statement I will never stop sharing and fighting for the values of equity and inclusion for all of my LGBTQ family, especially the most marginalized. And that is what we are: family. The Center may have taken away my platform, but not my voice. I have devoted my life to social justice movements and my time at The Center was marked by “spectacular” growth and progress. I want all of my former colleagues and friends there to know I still support The Center’s mission and will work tirelessly to achieve it, even if from the outside.”