Erspamer Resigns, Transgender Activist Reyes Named Affirmations Interim Director

Erspamer Resigns, Transgender Activist Reyes Named Affirmations Interim Director

(Crystal A. Proxmire, March 29, 2018)

Ferndale, MI-  After two years as Executive Director of Affirmations LGBTQ Community Center in Ferndale, Susan Ersparmer has resigned in the midst of financial concerns and staff issues.  Following Erspamer’s resignation, the Board of Directors voted Wednesday night to appoint Lilianna Reyes to serve as Interim Director.

REYES APPOINTMENT

“As the first Transgender Latina to lead an LGBTQ+ organization in Michigan, I’m honored to accept the Interim Executive Director role,” Reyes said in a statement.  “I welcome this challenging transition with open arms. I look forward to working with the community to make a stronger Affirmations. As we near International Transgender Day of Visibility, I invite you to join me at Spring Bash on Saturday, April 14th, as we celebrate community!”

Reyes had been serving as Program Services Director.  According to her staff bio, “Lilianna Angel Reyes, trans Latina woman, has extensive history working with marginalized populations including people of color, women, LGBTQ communities, HIV positive communities, and most importantly youth and all their intersections. She has worked with many state and national civil rights organizations including Affirmations, Planned Parenthood, National Organization of Women, Transgender Michigan, and NAACP. She is currently a Founding Mother and sitting Board Member for a transformative new non-profit, The Trans Sistas of Color Project (TSCOP). As a graduate of the University of Michigan Rackham Graduate School with a Master of Public Administration and her experience of being a transgender, Latina woman has allowed her to utilize personal lessons along with her academic career to create a culture of youth empowerment encouraging diversity in all endeavors. Empowering marginalized people through education and advocacy is her life-long goal.”

ERSPAMER RESIGNATION

Erspamer’s time at Affirmations began with controversy as details of her child custody battles were reported in Between the Lines newspaper.  The article focused on how Erspamer was using laws that do not recognize parental rights for same-sex partners as an argument in her child custody case. This did not sit well with many in the community who fight for equality in the justice system, and there were calls for her resignation.  However, she stuck with the job.

Out Post Magazine has reported on many challenges within the organization, including staff complaints not being addressed and financial improprieties. Erspamer denied claims made by former employees for that article, which can be read HERE.

In February of this year, Out Post obtained, and shared, a May 9, 2017 letter from Davison & Associates CPA lists multiple concerns about financial oversight at Affirmations, including:   turnover in the finance department and a new finance person “unable to keep detailed or accurate records of transactions occurring within this organization,” audits being pushed back, missing credit card statements and inconsistent charges as well as concerns with four employees being issued cards and two cards for the Executive Director.  Other concerns included over $1,000 in petty cash discrepancy and lack of records for petty cash transactions, lack of access to bank statements by anyone other than the Executive Director and a bank account with unexplained transactions.  The letter also stated that a discrepancy of over $3,000 was simply adjusted without explanation.  

A June 2017 article in Between the Lines announced a new Board President, named several recent new board appointments, and mentioned “significant staff changes in prior years.”  This would have been right after the letter from the CPA.

On their Facebook page, Affirmations posted about Erspamer’s departure, stating “The Board of Directors confirms that Susan Erspamer is no longer with Affirmations. On behalf of the center, we would like to thank Susan for her work over the last two years and wish her the best in all her future endeavors. In addition, the Board of Directors has appointed Lilianna Reyes as the interim Executive Director. The Board looks forward to working with Lilianna during this transition period.”

Affirmations provides a welcoming space where people of all sexual orientations, gender identities & expressions, and cultures can find support and unconditional acceptance, and where they can learn, grow, socialize and feel safe.  There are educational, social and recreational programs as well as a variety of groups including support groups and groups for youth and older adults.  Learn more about Affirmations at www.goaffirmations.org.

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