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What's Going On At Howard Brown?

By Joseph Erbentraut in News on Apr 7, 2010 6:20PM

2010_04_07_howardbrown.jpg The news that two main staffers at the
Howard Brown Health Center
were being placed on paid administrative leave came as a shock to Chicago's LGBT community last week. And in the days that have passed since the brief press release unveiled the news, it seems those involved with the Midwest's premier gay and lesbian health center remain tight-lipped on details.

According to the release, an "internal decision" made by the center's board of directors resulted in the organization's chief financial officer, Mark Joslyn, and chief executive director, Michael Cook, being put on leave. In their wake, Paul Fairchild has been appointed as interim chief operating officer. Howard Brown board chair Steven Phelps says "[t]hese administrative changes pertain to an internal personnel matter which do not impact the mission of [the center]."

If the shake-up at Howard Brown is truly as insignificant as the center's chief officers would like us to think, one must wonder why transparency has been so difficult to come by. A Windy City Times report following up on the shake-up reports neither Cook or Joslyn responded to the paper's queries, while the center's media liaison said Fairchild was not available for media questioning and that further details on the move were forthcoming in a yet-unseen press release.

State Rep. Greg Harris, whose district includes the center, told WBBM, "If you do not talk about these kinds of things, then it just leads to speculation ... [I]n these kinds of situations where you're dealing with public money and public trust and donors, the sooner you get out in front of a story like this and talk about what's going on and how it's being addressed, the better."

The Howard Brown Health Center, founded in 1974, operates an annual budget of more than $15 million, providing primary medical care, HIV/STD prevention and testing, youth and elder services to an estimated 28,000 adults and youth each year.