Program director is latest to leave Mazzoni Center

After nearly 10 years of service, R Perry Monastero, the notable go-to on all things Mazzoni Center and its chief advancement officer, is leaving his post.

His departure comes at a time when the LGBTQ wellness center is still trying to rebound from the leadership changes and personnel losses of 2017 and 2018.

“It has been my privilege and honor to be a part of the Mazzoni Center team since 2009,” wrote Monastero in a mass email. “Thus, it is bittersweet for me to inform you that Friday, January 25, 2019 will be my last day … When I arrived at Mazzoni Center, we were about 80 staff members strong. Now, the organization employs more than 165 people full-time. In 2009, the budget was about $6 million; today, the budget stands at $18 million, and growing.” Mazzoni’s brain trust, an interim leadership team of Racquel Assaye, CFO; Dr. Nancy Brisbon, CMO; and Alecia Manley, Interim COO, stated in part to PGN on Tuesday morning: Perry joined Mazzoni Center more than nine years ago, during which time he worked to build resources and strengthen relationships on behalf of the organization to further our mission and programs.  Of particular note, through Perry’s collaborative efforts with multiple stakeholders, we were able to obtain the $1.5M RACP grant for our new building. We wish Perry the best for his future endeavors and thank him for his service to Mazzoni Center.” 

Monastero said that he left the center on good terms and that he was “excited to announce that I will join the campaign to elect Tiffany Palmer for Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, a community leader whom I have known for over 22 years.”

Mount Airy’s Palmer, a family-law attorney and partner at Jerner & Palmer, P.C., started the Family Rights Project at the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights, and was appointed director of the LGBT Family Law Institute, a joint venture of the National LGBT Bar Association and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, in 2018.

“I greatly respect and admire her expertise, service commitment, and quality of character,” stated Monastero.

The stability of Mazzoni Center’s administration started making headlines in March 2017, when longtime medical director Dr. Robert Winn was suspended for sexual misconduct allegations (several of which had been reported four years earlier). To make matters worse, longtime Mazzoni CEO Nurit Shein, who was accused of failing to respond to the sexual-misconduct allegations against Winn.

In April 2017, Mazzoni Center staff members walked out in protest of Shein’s lack of action and called for her to resign. Board president Jimmy Ruiz also resigned, partially due to the urging of Philly’s Black and Brown Workers Collective over questions about how allegations against Winn were handled.

In September 2017, the nonprofit’s frontline staff voted in favor of unionizing with the Service Employees International Union, but not before Mazzoni interim CEO Stephen Glassman sought the counsel of antiunion consultants (one of which had ties to a right-wing hate group), allegedly to stop employees trying to unionize.

Mazzoni Center’s appointment of employee Dr. Nancy Brisbon, as its new medical director in October 2017 was thought of as a balm to the year’s wounds. The good vibes didn’t last long, however, as a straight woman from Florida with little to no connection to the Philadelphia area was brought on to lead the organization in March 2018.

By late summer, another mass staff walkout occurred when diversity director Kay Martinez, a queer transgender person of color hired to suss out troubles in workplace-advancement opportunities and compensation discrepancies, was let go.

By September, 82 employees signed a petition demanding that Mazzoni’s board of directors force several resignations. Five legacy board members retired in the autumn and, by winter, the center also lost board president Chris Pope, CEO Lydia Gonzalez Sciarrino and, more tellingly, COO Ron Powers, who resigned after more than 20 years in his position.

“This is an important time of transition at Mazzoni Center,” said Mazzoni Communications Director Larry Benjamin. “Our Interim Leadership Team has spent the past two months taking a step back and listening to the needs of employees while we all work to overcome the challenges our organization experienced in the past several years. As an organization, patients and clients continue to be our top priority.  We feel that Mazzoni Center is taking the overdue steps to enable us to heal from our recent past, and strengthen our organization’s culture.” n