Investigations continue into alleged mismanagement of Orlando Pride

By : Jamie Hyman
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Orlando – It seems it will take a long time to get to the bottom of what exactly went down while Mikael Audebert, the recently-fired executive director of Come Out With Pride, was steering the ship.

The Metropolitan Business Association, Central Florida’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce and the parent organization to COWP, released a statement Nov. 18 indicating the organizations are making progress on repairing alleged damage caused by Audebert’s tenure—but they still have a way to go before even fully understanding what damage has been done.

“MBA Orlando also wishes to directly address the Nov. 4 termination of then-COWP Executive Director Mikael Audebert (also former MBA Orlando President), for gross mismanagement, serious violations of his COWP contract, and making unauthorized changes to COWP bylaws in an unsuccessful attempt to illegally separate the organizations,” the statement reads. “Both Boards agree that this termination was necessary to prevent significant damage to the organizations, their members, and the community.”

Those unauthorized changes to bylaws refer to Oct. 28, when the COWP board voted to sever itself entirely from the MBA, a move MBA founder Debbie Simmons called “totally illegal.”

“I don’t think any bylaw changes were done in a manner that was inappropriate or breaking rules,” Audebert said on the day of his termination.

On the same day, Nayte Carrick, who is now MBA president, said: “COWP bylaws required any changes be approved by the MBA board. We were never presented those [changes] nor did we approve them. That was what prompted [Audebert’s firing]. We hadn’t planned on doing anything this big, but we were forced to by [the COWP vote to split from the MBA].”

However, neither the COWP nor the MBA bylaws stated that.

It was revealed at an emergency MBA board meeting Nov. 6 that when turning in some standard, redlined edits to the bylaws in November of 2013, Audebert submitted a draft where the rules about changing bylaws had been altered but did not redline those changes. Several MBA board members said the changed slipped through unnoticed and were made illegally and therefore, they were working off of invalid bylaws.

With that issue settled and Carrick, who was previously the MBA vice president, put in place at the helm of the organization, it appears the MBA and COWP will now focus on untangling the organizations’ finances.

“The boards will continue investigating irregularities in the financial records and working towards an audit, as well as correcting the numerous attempts to disrupt COWP and MBA regular operations,” MBA’s statement reads.

When asked about those attempts to disrupt, Carrick said, “attempts have been made, some temporarily successful, to take control of MBA / pride business accounts post-termination.”

Carrick added that all critical accounts have been recovered. When asked whether the organizations treasurers would be held responsible for the financial mess, Carrick had the same response as he did when asked whether criminal or civil charges would be filed against Audebert: “We are diligently continuing to investigate the actions and irregularities, and will reserve comment for when we have more answers to the questions we are asking. As a member organization, all of our findings will be made available.”

When the MBA announced Audebert’s termination, they also announced that the COWP board was temporarily suspended. In the statement, the MBA “apologizes for any negative connotation this protective action may have unintentionally implied,” and Carrick told Watermark the board has been reinstated.
When contacted about the MBA’s statement and its accusations, Audebert told Watermark he is “not interested in adding fuel to the fire because it only further damages these organizations.”

He opted to release a statement to the media, stating that he is “stunned” to see the “misinformation and assumptions” and that he’s requested several times to meet with the MBA and COWP boards, but those requests have been ignored.

“I would be very pleased to sit down and answer any questions or concerns either board have. However, I was not given this opportunity to date,” Audebert stated.
“If indeed both boards (which have, let’s not forget, oversight and full responsibility of any and all operations) are really interested in getting answers, I am at their disposal. By doing so, they might finally be able to move on to serving the members and sponsors without creating more damage to the reputation of these fine organizations. Until then, I have no further comments on what continues to be a series of unfounded allegations.”

When asked about Audebert’s requests to meet, Carrick replied, “I’ll clarify that we are not experiencing difficulty, but are thoroughly working through the irregularities and should soon be able to release our findings.”

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