Stormy year leads to leadership sweep at Philly’s Mazzoni Center

 Activists representing Philly Black Lives Matter, the Black and Brown Workers Collective, and the Coaliton for REAL Justice call for a change in Philly LGBT leadership after racist incidents in the Gayborhood last October. (Brad Larrison for NewsWorks, file)

Activists representing Philly Black Lives Matter, the Black and Brown Workers Collective, and the Coaliton for REAL Justice call for a change in Philly LGBT leadership after racist incidents in the Gayborhood last October. (Brad Larrison for NewsWorks, file)

The head of the region’s only health center specializing in the needs of LGBT people has resigned, after a stormy year that began with tensions simmering over race. 

The Mazzoni Center announced longtime CEO Nurit Shein’s departure today on its Facebook page, saying board members on Sunday “asked for and accepted” her resignation and will now search for an interim replacement.

Board President Jimmy Ruiz also resigned and was replaced by Dr. Tony Rodriguez as the interim board president. A new executive committee will includes Dr. Mark Blecher, Christopher Pope and Tony Verdi.

The changes come on the heels of the resignations of Robert Winn, the center’s medical director who left amid sexual misconduct allegations, and board member Michael Weiss, a co-owner of the Gayborhood bar Woody’s where complaints of racism led to protests and sit-ins last fall. Weiss also was tied to the corruption indictment last month of Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams.

Shein has headed the center since 1995, but resentment has simmered in recent months about a perceived lack of representation on the center’s mostly white board and lack of concern about issues affecting LGBT people of color.

City Councilwoman Helen Gym called the leadership changes “a necessary step in rebuilding trust between the center’s leadership, staff, and the diverse LGBTQ communities they serve. I want to acknowledge the current and former Mazzoni Center staff who demanded — and now won — accountability from the organization…especially…members of the Black and Brown Workers Collective, who have struggled for months to confront a pattern of abuse and push both Mazzoni Center and our city towards justice.”

The city’s Office of LGBT Affairs and the Mayor’s Commission on LGBT Affairs issued this statement: “The Office of LGBT Affairs and the Mayor’s Commission on LGBT Affairs stand with the community, staff, and patients of the Mazzoni Center as we call for increased transparency and accountability throughout the investigation of serious allegations of misconduct. We stand in support of these individuals and we offer our assistance in light of the recent transition of leadership. The primary goal of the Office and the Commission is to pursue efforts that ensure the staff and patients of the Mazzoni Center are protected in a manner which upholds the standards and ethics of the medical profession as well as our ethical expectations as a community. The Office of LGBT Affairs and Mayor’s Commission on LGBT Affairs strongly emphasize the need to critically address these issues in a timely manner to support our ability to heal, rebuild, and move forward as a unified community.”

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