Equal. Adv. names new director, board members

Equality Advocates Pennsylvania announced this week that a three-year employee of the agency will guide the group through its transition period, following the resignation of its executive director last month.

The organization announced Jan. 11 that Jake Kaskey, former policy and programs director, will become the managing director of the group and its 501(c)4 lobbying arm, Equality Pennsylvania.

Board president Brian Sims said Kaskey will function similarly to an executive director, but the new position will allow him to work more closely with the board.

“The managing director is very much like the executive director, with increased involvement with the board,” Sims said. “Jake has been at the organization through three executive directors, so he’s been there through a lot of change, but the board hasn’t, so the board needs to see how the organization operates and needs to be hands-on.”

Sims said that on Jan. 7, the board, which at the time consisted of himself, vice president Mark Usry and Jeff Brauer, voted unanimously to appoint Kaskey to the position.

“I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a young lobbyist in the state of Pennsylvania who has a better reputation or record than Jake,” Sims said.

Kaskey joined the organization in 2007 after working as a lobbyist and on the campaigns for several state lawmakers and Congressmembers, as well as on the 2004 presidential campaign of Dick Gephardt.

“When the board asked me last week if I’d be willing to step up into this role, I was happy to agree to it,” Kaskey said. “My passions really lie in legislative work and, having seen activists across the state step up and see bills pass across the state in the last few months, it made this an easy decision to take on this role.”

Sims said he was unsure when the board would launch a national search for a permanent executive director, but added it would be the new director’s decision whether or not to retain the managing-director position.

“We have in place a lot of plans and a lot of programming for the first quarter of the year, so that’s going to be eating up a lot of the time and talents of the board,” Sims said.

Kaskey said he’s planning to focus his efforts on rolling out the organization’s legislative agenda, which includes advocating for the passage of an LGBT-inclusive hate-crimes bill — which could come up for a vote in the coming weeks — as well as the introduction of anti-bullying legislation and local-level nondiscrimination ordinances throughout the state.

Also this week, the group named four new board members: Ted Martin, Lauren Barr, Chris Gateman and Syngred Briddell, who all hail from Central Pennsylvania. The full board will hold its first meeting Jan. 31 in Harrisburg.

The new appointments follow the Dec. 31 resignation of Lynn Zeitlin as executive director, who said she was leaving to pursue other interests.

Sims said he held a board conference call Dec. 30, during which six of the then-seven board members discussed the management of the organization.

“The purpose of the call was to discuss critically where we were as an organization, such as what we need to do with staff and if any changes needed to be made,” Sims said. “We talked about if we wanted to make changes or not, where the board should be more involved and what we expect out of the organization.”

Sims said the board members did not vote to request Zeitlin’s resignation.

“We talked about where we were going and our impressions of Lynn and the work she was doing, but as president of the board, I did not call any kind of vote.”

Sims confirmed that board secretary Jay Meadway, treasurer Ann Loftus and member Tom Waters all resigned since the conference call.

Loftus and Meadway did not return calls for comment.

Brauer told PGN last week that Zeitlin’s fundraising capabilities came into question during conversations about the group’s direction, but Waters said Zeitlin’s fundraising work should not be doubted.

“Lynn was very responsible for the ‘good financial position’ the organization is in,” he said. “Lynn was instrumental in writing many of the grants that helped create that position.”

Sims said information about the organization’s fundraising over the past year was not immediately available, but noted that it brought in an anonymous $50,000 donation in the summer, a $12,500 grant from the Philadelphia Bar Association and a $50,000 grant in December from the Tides Foundation, and had a “pretty successful” private-donation drive last month.

Sims said the new board will vote to elect a treasurer and secretary at its meeting this month.

In addition to Kaskey, Equality Advocates also has on staff a part-time office administrator and a full-time volunteer field organizer. Sims said he expects to announce two new hires in the next few weeks.

Jen Colletta can be reached at [email protected].