‘They mishandled the choices’

‘They mishandled the choices’

Making a bold statement about the way its national organization is run, the board of directors of the Pittsburgh Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation has approved a vote of no confidence in the national Susan G. Komen for the Cure board of directors.

The vote, which came down at the Pittsburgh affiliate’s regular meeting, Tuesday, Feb. 7, was “based on the national organization’s management of the recent issues related to funding policy changes,” according to a prepared statement.

Jeremy Hartzell, president-elect of the Komen Pittsburgh, told the Chronicle the vote was not specifically about Komen’s recent decisions to defund then refund Planned Parenthood.

“We’re upset with the way they managed the entire process,” he told the Chronicle. “We did not take a position on what they did based on funding or defunding [Planned Parenthood]; it is our position that grant decisions should be left to the local affiliates.”

From Pittsburgh’s perspective, Hartzell said, the Planned Parenthood episode should have been a “nonevent” since Planned Parenthood has never asked his affiliate for a grant.

“We have never given one [grant] and have never rejected one,” he said. “We wound up getting caught in the crosshairs because national made this decision and reversed the decision. We felt they mishandled the choices.”

So far, no one from Komen’s national office has responded to the no-confidence vote, according to Kathy Purcell, executive director of Komen Pittsburgh, said on Monday. Neither has the national office returned calls and an email from the Chronicle seeking comment.

Going forward, Hartzell said his board is “hopeful” that the national organization will re-evaluate how it works with the local affiliates. Specifically, he called on the national office to expand the size of its nine-member board to increase representation of local affiliates.

Currently, only one affiliate has a member on the national board while hundreds of others, including Pittsburgh, are left out, Hartzell said.

Since the Planned Parenthood incident broke, Komen Pittsburgh has received considerable local feedback, including from the National Council of Jewish Women — one of its founders.

The Pittsburgh affiliate also lost two funders, though it gained three as well, Hartzell said.

None of that, however, had any impact on Komen Pittsburgh’s no-confidence vote, he added. “The vote had no basis from any outside sources.”

Seventy-five percent of all money Komen Pittsburgh raises remains in Pittsburgh, Hartzell said. The balance goes to national, but only to fund research, not operations.

Komen Pittsburgh announced its largest grant yet to the region in fiscal year 2011 — $1.7 million. It also raised more than $2.8 million for the same period.

“We’re really trying to regain our focus” following the planned parenthood episode, Hartzell said. “We hope everyone will stay with us so that local men and women who depend on our services continue to receive them.”

(Lee Chottiner can be reached at leec@thejewishchronicle.net.)

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