Saturday, May 17, 2014

With no effort at reform after past missteps, Dirk McCall keeps exploiting the broken political system

After separating from Gay Men's Health Crisis, Dirk McCall now works for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., in a post many see as a soft landing political operative post.

After separating from GMHC at the end of last year, Dirk McCall, former communications officer for GMHC, now works as the external affairs director for the office of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.

Mr. McCall was the former executive director of the now-defunct Bronx Community Pride Center. The Bronx center closed following Mr. McCall's stint as executive director after a prior executive director, Lisa Winters, was accused of stealing more than $143,000 from the non-profit. Prior to that, Mr. McCall worked as a campaign operative for several politicians, and he was a former president of the Stonewall Democratic Club, the city's largest LGBT political organization. Prior to that, Mr. McCall worked for the shady real estate lobbyist, James Capalino. Given Mr. McCall's career pattern with many of Manhattan's permanent government insiders, he has learned the ropes of what it means to protect the broken political system from community demands for reform. Because no matter how many "change" elections New Yorkers vote for, or how many "progressive" campaign promises that voters hear, the New York City government keeps on working only for permanent government insider-operatives, their lobbyists, and the clients of those lobbyists.

Mr. McCall's post with Borough President Diaz allows Mr. McCall to remain firmly ensconced within other permanent government insider-operatives in New York City, inspite of his uneven record.

When he worked at GMHC, Mr. McCall once attended a meeting with representatives of the Harlem Ballroom community. Ballroom activists were upset that GMHC was, among other complaints, appropriating Ballroom culture in New York City for its own financial gain, at the expense of Ballroom houses and their artistic members. Mr. McCall did nothing to resolve Ballroom community concerns, leading Ballroom activists to call for Mr. McCall's ouster from GMHC. To this day, the Ballroom community views GMHC with distrust over the way agency officials, including Mr. McCall, disrespected the Ballroom community. One sign of that distrust was expressed when the Ballroom community called for a boycott of GMHC's Latex Ball last year. Mr. McCall's separation from GMHC followed years of controversies at the agency, including how the agency wasted so much money on fundraising expenses in connections with its annual AIDS Walk event and how the agency lost so much money on a controversial move to new office space. Despite the controversies that many viewed to be mistakes by former GMHC CEO Marjorie Hill, Mr. McCall never demonstrated autonomous leadership by showing a different vision for the agency. Instead, as criticism piled up on Ms. Hill for the agency's financial losses, Mr. McCall reportedly arranged for Ms. Hill to receive an award from the Winter Pride gala organized by the Queens Pride Committee. At times, he appeared to be working as Ms. Hill's personal publicist rather than for fighting to serve the agency's best interest. At GMHC, Mr. McCall's philosophy was go along to get along.

In-between Mr. McCall's stints in political posts, some government reform activists question whether Mr. McCall uses his jobs with LGBT community groups as temporary jobs until he gets another political post. When government reform activists try to build support amongst community groups to press elected officials for reforms, the reason why some community groups refrain from building public pressure for reform may be that these community groups are populated by political operatives trying to maintain good networking relationships with elected officials. Political operative-insiders, who work in the non-profit world, are always on the look-out for opportunities to land another well-paying and prestigious political appointment.

And now, after years of cultivating an expansive network of relationships across political and LGBT community groups, Mr. McCall is using those connections to prop up the political career of Borough President Diaz. The political motivations behind this partnership are unclear.

That Mr. McCall keeps bouncing back, no matter how corrupt the finances of community groups like the Bronx Community Pride Center and GMHC are shown to be, is a testament to how the broken political system keeps rewarding political insiders, who know to leave well enough alone. Like a cat jumping off of a hot tin roof, Mr. McCall always lands on his feet.

Mr. McCall is safe at his new post all the way up in The Bronx as this year's AIDS Walk continues to show that GMHC is having trouble turning itself around. The agency's chief fundraiser resigned after the year-to-year cash inflows from AIDS Walk appear to be collapsing. Critics of Mr. McCall don't fault him for making mistakes like any human, but, rather, for the long string of mistakes that leave the LGBT community and voters having to pick up the pieces left by selfish political operative-insiders. So long as critical community groups that underpin the LGBT community in New York City keep hiring from the same corrupt pool of permanent political insider-operatives, it shouldn't be too long before GMHC ends up like the Bronx Pride Community Center : closed.

The only glimmer of hope that government reform activists have is that in the last year, activists were able to oust Ms. Hill from her post at GMHC and former Council Speaker Christine Quinn from public office. There is a hunger within the community for deeper reforms. For New York City government and its key non-profit groups to embrace reforms, activists wonder whether the only way to bring about change is to continue pressing to oust permanent government insider-operatives, like Mr. McCall.


  1. As a member of the Ballroom Community, I am deeply saddened by this disenfranchise behavior of so many. The exploitation and manipulation of funds in regards to disenfranchise communities is abominable, horrid and upsetting to say the least. I wished that the GMHC and the likes would get back to "Community" business. Instead of manipulating funds and exploiting the community. Its sad because the agencies and certain individuals have forgotten what the true meaning of the word "Community" represents. There are so many important issues and needs within the community that never get addressed. Its sad that with food programs have been cut and the AIDS Walk sponsorship has drastically decline. Although there are budget cuts to important programs. The GMHC still finds a way to spend money slated for food, metro cards etc;. They the "GMHC" has been spending money or find money to throw lavish events such as the "Latex Ball" which is being held yet again this year August 16th, 2014 in New York City. The community does not need a lavish ball. The Community needs help, how about restoring the food program for the Home bound clients with AIDS. How about instead of Voguing classes, Ki Ku Balls and a yearly Expensive "Latex Ball", we do the right thing and create job training programs, jobs, educational grants and Medical Care, physical, mental and dental. We need a watch dog to keep an eye on what's going on in the New York City agencies. It seems that the "NY AIDS Institute as well as The Attorney Generals Office" would be more in tuned with the Community and its needs. It would be wonderful if these organizations and political figures would stop getting away with ignoring the Community and becoming Corporate instead of non profit..

  2. this is the best reporting on GMHC crisis and corruption ever. We thank you Louis for your commitment and vision for the fight for empowerment and justice for all. These people are a poster child of corruption in the LGBT community and beyond. The idea McCall gets fired at one place for selling out the LGBT community and can turn around and get a job at the Bronx Borough president Diaz, I am gagging every time I think about that.

    2013 was a great year for LGBT activists, we exposed Hill, McCall and Quinn. How long can they maintain and get away with this.

    We love you Louis and this writing is the cherry on the top.