Here's a letter sent Wednesday to Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival board members by festival founder Robert Rosenberg. Below the letter is a response from film festival board member Mark Gilbert:
It was reported to me by several people that Mark Gilbert, a Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival Board member, spoke as a representative of the Festival at yesterday's meeting of the Mayor's gay committee of the City of Miami Beach, and made some seriously slanderous and dishonest remarks about me and my tenure at the Festival. I understand that he said that, referring to the history of problems at the Festival, that I was fired as the Festival Director seven years ago when the Festival had accrued a $190,000 deficit. I am very upset to know the current Board is allowing these kinds of dishonorable statements to be put out in their name, quite ironically after my graciously accepting an award, just three months ago, for being the Festival's Founding Director.
Everyone knows, both in terms of the public record and the media coverage, that I was not fired for cause but that the Festival and myself acrimoniously parted ways due to some serious disagreements with how to govern the organization. The Board at that time did however have the chuzpah to attempt to deny me State unemployment compensation on the grounds that I was fired with cause, a position that they were 100% forced to back down from. I did indeed receive that compensation, case closed. Since none of you were on the Board at the time (but Mark Gilbert was certainly volunteering with the organization and close to the Board then and should himself know better), you all certainly have different, partial versions of the factual history. If anyone wants to know more, feel free to contact me.
However, the statement about the deficit at the time I left is ludicrous and even more dishonest - we had a debt of about $40,000, which the Festival managed to more than double within a year of my departure. Suffice it to say that one of my disagreements with the Board at that time was over how to approach the existing debt and the ability of certain other staff members to continue in their jobs as the main drivers of corporate underwriting and fiscal management. History proved, unfortunately, that I was right, and the deficit increased after my departure, until the Board addressed these issues. A misstatement of the size of the deficit of this magnitude is unacceptable.
Whether out of malice or sloppiness, this kind of very public defamation has to stop. Since none of you have thought to solicit my opinion on the current crisis the Festival is in, I will not offer it, but suffice it to say that Mark Gilbert going around spouting blatant lies about me and my time with the Festival does not put the Festival and the Board in a good light. Community is not built this way. There are important lessons to learn from the early years of the Festival, if the right questions are asked.
If past experience serves me, this letter might fall on deaf ears, but an apology to me for what Mark said, a public retraction to the Mayor's committee and a promise not to repeat this kind of thing in the future, would be reasonable.
Miami Beach, FL
Mark Gilbert told me Wednesday that he never meant to imply Rosenberg was responsible for the festival's old $190,000 deficit:
His name was a reference point in time. Not anything that was slanderous.
Seven years ago we had a deficit when I joined the film festival. When I joined the board it was $190,000 in debt. I said it was 'after Robbie Rosenberg.'
It was a reference to the things that happened in the festival. They were just reference points. I never said Robbie Rosenberg left us in a debt of $190,000. How stupid.