Tax forms show Philly Pride Presents exhausted funds, had no assets | Analysis

The organization had come under scrutiny for declining to repay some vendors for cancelled events in 2020 and 2021

By: - August 19, 2021 2:05 pm

By Michele Zipkin and Jason Villemez

PHILADELPHIA — Tax forms for Philly Pride Presents, which the Philadelphia Gay News received from sources close to the organization, reveal an organization with exhausted funds and no assets from 2016 to 2019.

Notably, the forms show that Philly Pride Presents’ executive director Fran Price, whose name appears as F. DiCicco on some of the forms, stopped receiving a salary in 2016 and has not taken one since. The 990 forms PGN received were unsigned and undated, but were similar to past forms that the organization had filed. Organizations recognized as tax-exempt by the IRS must file form 990 each year.

A Guidestar search shows that the last publicly available 990 form for Philly Pride Presents (PPP) is from 2015. According to the IRS, the organization’s tax-exempt status was revoked in May 2019 for failing to file form 990 for three consecutive years. However, an IRS letter dated June 2, 2020 stated that the organization’s tax-exempt status had been reinstated, which indicates that the organization had updated its 990 forms in the interim. The tax-exempt status was reinstated a little over a week before PPP released a controversial social media post that ultimately led to the group announcing its disbandment in late June.

Over the four years from 2016 to 2019, the 990 forms PGN received show that the organization’s revenue ranged from $219,949 in 2016, $198,247 in 2017, $243,180 in 2018, and $180,348 in 2019.

Expenses, which equaled the revenue each year, included advertising and promotion, occupancy, travel, event vendors, event merchandise and supplies, and consultant fees. The organization’s address is listed as 252 S. 12th St., which is also the address for Spruce Street Video, a business owned by Price.

PPP has recently come under scrutiny for declining to repay some vendors who bought space for Pride and OutFest events that were cancelled in 2020 and 2021.

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Steven Weitzman, who owns Grilly Cheese in Chesilhurst, N.J., is one such vendor. He said that he paid a fee of approximately $650 for the 2020 Pride festival and did not get a response to multiple requests for a refund.

“However, we did see that [PPP] received — and opened — the emails requesting a refund via our CRM which offers tracking for email opens and clicks,” Weitzman said in an email.

Weitzman bought space for the 2020 OutFest event as well, for which he asked a representative from PPP for his money back. He said his most recent request for a refund was met with the following response: “Philly Pride Presents “DISSOLVED” AOL account was cancelled and will automatically [deactivate] in 90 days.”

Weitzman said that his past interactions with PPP leadership “seemed OK,” and that he made a considerable profit from selling food at previous Pride events. “I never had a bad taste in my mouth with them until this happened,” he added.

Kari and Vicki Alvaro, who co-own Sweet Girlz Bakery in Easton, Pa., paid PPP $950 to sell their baked goods at 2020 Pride and Outfest events, but like Weitzman, they never got a refund. After they continuously reached out to Price for information when first the Pride festival and then OutFest were called off due to the pandemic, the couple told Billy Penn that Price eventually responded with, “there is no money.”

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“I emailed [Price] back and said, ‘if there was no Pride event, where did the money go?’ And I got no response,” Vicki Alvaro said.

When asked about what future Pride leadership needs to look like in order for things to run smoothly, Alvaro said, “I think you need to get somebody more organized and trustworthy, other than Franny, in the position to run it. Maybe have a board or committee overseeing where the funds are going.”

According to the Philadelphia-based online news site Billy Penn, PPP declined to refund other vendors who paid for space at Pride 2020 and OutFest 2020, including the Waffle Mamas Food Truck, Jeremiah’s Custom Cuisine and others. Drag performer Andre Henson, whose drag name is Alzéi Barbei Mizrahi, was not paid for his headlining gig at the 2018 Pride Festival, Billy Penn also reported.

PGN reached out to several local LGBTQ+ organizations that have participated in previous Pride events, including William Way LGBT Community Center and Mazzoni Center, but none wished to comment publicly.

Price did not return PGN’s requests for comment.

City of Philadelphia personnel are in the process of sorting out PPP’s remaining debt to the city, which includes money owed to the Streets Department and to the Fire Department for the 2019 Pride festival.

“We are reviewing our processes to ensure that all events are billed appropriately,” a City spokesperson said in an email. “That is all we can share at this time.”

An organization called the Greater Philadelphia Traditions Fund, established in 2010 to help organizations including PPP pay for city expenses related to parades and festivals, had helped PPP with such expenses in prior years, but it is unknown if they plan to assist with the 2019 Pride festival debt.

Philly Pride Presents dismantled itself this past June after community organizers, including members of the Black and Brown Workers Cooperative, Philly Trans March and ACT UP Philadelphia, planned to publicly demand an overhaul of Pride’s executive leadership largely due to its failure to cater its events to Philly’s QTBIPOC community. They claimed Pride erected barriers to other members of the community, including people with disabilities, people living with HIV and those with low disposable incomes.

A group of organizers from the aforementioned parties are currently working on plans to produce Pride events that are more accessible to Philly’s diverse, multifacted queer communities. They also plan to elevate the Black and Brown queer and trans people who fought on the front lines against police brutality during the Stonewall riots, which gave way to the first Pride march.

Michele Zipkin and Jason Villemez are reporters for the Philadelphia Gay News, where this story first appeared

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