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Has Equality California Found In-House Replacement for Geoff Kors, Despite Promises For Nationwide Search & Public Input?

Will officials at Equality California, the powerful gay rights lobbying group, follow through on their promises to conduct an extensive nationwide search and reach out to the gay community as they look for a new executive director?

According to gay blogger and activist Michael Petrelis, the answer looks like a big fat "no," with signs that Equality California is already preparing to promote its managing director, Jim Carroll.

If that's happening, it contradicts what outgoing executive director Geoff Kors and EQCA board members told L.A. Weekly during recent interviews.

The hiring of the new executive director of Equality California is no small thing.

That leader makes decisions that can directly affect the rights and lives of hundreds of thousands of gays and lesbians in California -- whether it's fighting an anti-gay ballot measure or helping to get pro-gay legislation passed in Sacramento.

He or she will also work with other gay rights groups. It is something critics say EQCA and Geoff Kors haven't always done well, and hope the organization will correct with a new executive director who will seek to build a stronger, all-around gay rights movement in California.

Yet Petrelis senses that something's not entirely kosher with the effort to replace such an important figure in California's gay rights movement.

Petrelis notes that EQCA sent out an email blast on December 30, touting EQCA accomplishments and asking for donations. It's the kind of notice that's normally signed by Geoff Kors, who's not leaving his job until March. This time, however, managing director Jim Carroll signed it.

Carroll also chatted up donors at a recent EQCA event, acting as the evening's host. It's a role Kors almost always plays with the money people, but he gave the spotlight to Carroll.

Carroll's remarks, as a result, received major play in a subsequent Bay Area Reporter article.

These things make Petrelis think that "there is no search underway to hire a new executive director because the decision has already been made, I believe, to move Jim Carroll to the top spot at EQCA."

It's hard to disagree with Petrelis' assessment, especially since EQCA sent out a high-profile email blast to members on December 23 that was also signed by Carroll, not Kors.

Additionally, Equality California sent out this self-congratulatory press release to media outlets around the same time. No quote from Kors, but Carroll said a few words.

EQCA, in other words, appears to be working hard to introduce Jim Carroll to its membership and the gay community.

When a public relations move like this happens, it's often a tip-off that something is afoot -- certain people inside EQCA, for example, may have made up their minds and want Carroll to be the next executive director.

But a strong push to promote Carroll at this early stage would go against what EQCA officials told the Weekly during interviews for a cover story on Equality California that will be published this Thursday.

EQCA honchos said they would most definitely seek "input" from the gay community and initiate a nationwide search before hiring Kors' replacement.

"It's important to have significant community input," said EQCA board member Shannon Minter of the hiring process. "It will be a critical piece."

Minter added, "We'll leave no stone unturned to get a diverse field of candidates."

EQCA board member Cary Davidson promised a "nationwide" search.

But at the time of the interviews with Davidson and Minter, which occurred some two weeks after Kors gave his resignation notice, the board had still not established a formal search committee.

EQCA has also yet to do any kind of formal outreach -- such as town hall meetings -- to get input from gay folks up and down California, even though EQCA receives millions of dollars in contributions from the gay community and makes important decisions on its behalf.

Asked if he had any favorite candidates during a December 9 interview with the Weekly, Geoff Kors side-stepped the question.

"Ultimately," Kors said, "that's a decision the board of directors will make. I think they'll seek a lot of input from the community and other stake holders about the type of person (they want to hire)."

Asked if EQCA board members are looking primarily at candidates based in California, Kors responded, "The board's doing a national search. It would be a requirement that the person lives in California. Obviously connections within California will be a factor, but there's so many factors that I think the board will consider, and that's something they're really going to have to wrestle with."

Asked if the board will consider a woman or a person of color to be his replacement, Kors said, "I think the board will reach out to find the best person and aggressively work to make sure we have good applicants from both men and women, from people of color, from the transgender community. The board is definitely committed to diversity."

Kors words say one thing, but will his actions and the actions of EQCA board members ultimately match up?

It's one more controversy the Weekly examines this Thursday in a cover story about Equality California and its longtime leader, Geoff Kors.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

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