82 Mazzoni Center Staffers Sign Petition Addressing Recent Turmoil

The document, sent to nearly a dozen government officials, calls on the Mazzoni board to “force resignations where just cause exists” and to reinstate a recently terminated diversity director.

Mazzoni staff members walk out on August 20, 2018. | Photo: Ernest Owens

Following ongoing controversy surrounding the abrupt termination of Mazzoni Center’s first-ever diversity, equity, and inclusion director, Kay Martinez, 82 of the organization’s staff members have signed a “call to action” petition that was sent to several government officials via email on Labor Day.

Philadelphia magazine obtained the text of the petition, which was sent to Mayor Jim Kenney; Office of LGBT Affairs director Amber Hikes; the co-chairs of the Mayor’s Commission on LGBT Affairs; City Council President Darrell Clarke and Council members Kenyatta Johnson, Mark Squilla, Helen Gym, and Derek Green; state Senator Larry Farnese; and state Representative Brian Sims.

The two-page document, signed by two-thirds of the nonprofit’s 120 frontline staffers (the organization has a total of 138 employees), described Mazzoni as being in a “crisis” and having “a culture of discrimination, retaliation, and negligence” where “the safety and well-being of staff and the patients and clients we serve continue to be compromised.”

The petition names members of upper-level management whom the signatories “do not trust or have confidence in” and contains a list of demands that includes reinstating Martinez:

We do not trust or have confidence in the following members of management team: Lydia Gonzalez Sciarrino, CEO; Ron Powers, COO; Patricia Dunne, Human Resources Director; Perry Monastero, Director of Development; and Larry Benjamin, Director of Communications.

We do not trust or have confidence in Chris Pope and the other executive leadership of the Mazzoni Center Board of Directors to provide good governance.

For far too long they’ve put the future of the agency at risk. This is completely unacceptable and we demand intervention so the harm will finally stop and the healing can begin.

● We call on Mazzoni Center’s Board of Directors of good conscience, government officials, and the community to hold these leaders fully accountable and force resignations where just cause exists.

● We ask for the immediate reinstatement of Kay Martinez and insist that management cease and desist with any further retaliation against staff.

● We insist that no changes be made to the original job description for Kay’s position and they be allowed to do the job they were hired to do.

Mazzoni staffers also made demands in the petition for committees to be run by frontline staff and community members to “ensure that orderly reform happens.” Requests ranged from having “any replacements hired to fill management vacancies must be selected by hiring committees where frontline staff make up no less than 50 percent of each committee” to “new board members must be approved by a committee made up of 50 percent-plus frontline staff and community members.”

Following their termination in late August, Martinez (who uses they/them pronouns) announced that they had filed a wrongful termination/discrimination complaint against their former employer with the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations.

A Mazzoni spokesperson did not respond to Philadelphia magazine’s request for comment.

On August 23rd, Farnese and Sims released a joint statement defending Martinez and calling for them to be “fully reinstated”:

“I have serious concerns about the recent termination of the Mazzoni Center’s Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion,” Mayor Kenney said in a press statement last Monday. “I commend the former Director for taking this important step and I look forward to receiving PCHR’s findings.”