Chris Classen, the controversial president of the board of Christopher Street West, has been replaced by board member Estevan Montemayor.
CSW, which produces the annual LA Pride festival and parade, scheduled for June 9 and 10 this year, made the announcement today. It comes on the heels of a recent story in WEHOville that revealed that CSW had granted an exclusive contract to secure sponsorships to Classen’s business partner, Craig Bowers, a former CSW board member. The contract appears to violate state law and its compensation method is a violation of ethical standards of the national Council of Nonprofits and Association of Fundraising Professionals. The organization has struggled for years with financial problems and allegations of mismanagement and unethical behavior.
Replacing Classen with Montemayor is the latest of several major steps the CSW board has taken to improve the reputation and management of the organization. Earlier this month, CSW announced that it had named Madonna Cacciatore as its first full-time executive director. She will assume that role on July 1.
“Thanks to Chris Classen’s leadership over the past three years and the incredible work done by the all-volunteer CSW Board of Directors, this LA Pride Week 2018 – including the annual LA Pride Festival and Parade – is on track to be one of the most successful in decades,” Montemayor said in an announcement of the change. “I look forward to working with Madonna and the entire Board to continue evolving our organization, create new and engaging programming, and grow our fundraising efforts while still being inclusive, transparent, and representative of our community in everything we do. That is at the heart of our mission.”
In its announcement of the change, CSW said that Classen will remain on the CSW board “to transition his duties and share institutional knowledge with both Montemayor and Cacciatore.”
Montemayor joined the CSW board in October 2017 as part of a new group of eight board members. Five members of the board had resigned earlier, complaining about the management of the organization and, in particular, a non-disclosure agreement Classen had asked them to sign.
Montemayor currently is the director of communications and external affairs for Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu, representing Council District 4. He has served in senior management positions for numerous political and advocacy campaigns. From 2015-2017, he served as a member of the Public Safety Commission in West Hollywood, where he’s also lived for the past six years.
In addition, Montemayor has worked on the communications and research team for the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the sole sponsor of the federal constitutional challenge to California’s Proposition 8. He currently serves as a delegate to the California Democratic Party. A native of San Diego, Estevan graduated with a B.A. in Theater from UCLA.