With less than three weeks remaining until the annual Utah Pride Festival, two key event staff members have left the Utah Pride Center. Megan Risbon, under contract as Festival Director since January 2014, terminated her contract effective Tuesday, May 20, and Events Coordinator Shannon Hagen left that same week.
Issues apparently came to a head during the Board of Directors meeting of May 19, when board chair John Netto and ex-officio board member Nikki Boyer repeatedly interrupted Hagen during her presentation of a festival status report. Hagen was shadowing Risbon in order to learn and lead next year’s Festival and this was her first presentation to the Board. Controversy arose when she announced that ticket prices would be $8 for pre-sales and $10 at the gate. Boyer and Netto were under the impression tickets would be $15 and were also concerned that the entertainment budget was surpassed. Tickets, however, had gone on sale April 15.
Long-time community activist Dominique Storni was present at the meeting and said that Netto and Boyer were, “Too harsh. Too much micro-managing. Too much control.”
Hagen told QSaltLake that she informed three staff members that evening that she was leaving her position, citing the public humiliation she endured during the meeting. She also posted a Facebook status, but took it down shortly after.
Risbon, who left her full-time position at the Utah Pride Center in January, but stayed on under contract to direct the Pride Festival, terminated her contract the next day. She cited Netto’s lack of oversight and her belief that she would end up being the scapegoat for any problems that may arise with the festival.
Hagen said she met with UPC Executive Director Steven Ha on Tuesday, prior to learning of Risbon’s departure, and asked for 48 hours to consider her decision. Upon learning of Risbon’s resignation she decided to return, notified Ha, and resumed work on Wednesday morning from home. She reported to the office in the early afternoon and worked there for approximately three hours before being called into Ha’s office to be informed that her position had been eliminated.
Ha said that he polled members of the Festival steering committee and it was determined that the event was far enough along and that the Festival could be easily be handled by the committee, with members over separate parts of the festival. Many of those people have been in their positions for several years.
Netto and Ha both stressed that the Pride Festival is moving forward and believe it will be larger than ever. Netto touted the current outlook of the festival, noting a significant increase in both sponsors and vendors, beating the numbers for last year despite a decrease in pre-event ticket sales to date.
Risbon echoed their sentiment, “I still have no doubt that 2014 will be the biggest and the best to date because of the talents and dedication of the Festival Steering Committee, who have been planning it since September 2013.”