Chamber Justifies Cancelling Venice Pride Membership, Sign Lighting

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The Venice Sign lit up for Venice Pride. Photo: Melanie Camp

By Amy Patton

The Venice Chamber of Commerce has released a statement in response to Venice Pride Board President Grant Turck’s request for the Chamber to “reverse course and to confirm its intention” in writing regarding the recent revocation of Venice Pride’s Chamber membership.

In an open letter to the Venice Board of Chamber last week, Turck claims that the Board of unjustly revoked Venice Pride’s membership to the Chamber of Commerce. He also said that the Chamber’s decision to take the Venice sign down for “unrelated maintenance” during the month of June was “hateful and offensive” toward the LGBTQ community. 

“The Venice Chamber of Commerce is strongly in support of our LGBTQ members and the wider LGBTQ community and we always will be,” the Chamber said in a statement released Monday. “We were saddened to learn of the accusations directed at the Chamber by Grant Turck and are therefore forced to clarify and respond.”

Venice Pride Board President Grant Turck

 The Chamber, the appointed custodian of the Venice Sign, said that the Sign Lighting event celebrating gay pride began with a request of Daniel Samakow in 2015, which took over a year to produce the premiere event. Since the event, Venice Pride was incorporated, and at the request of Samakow again, the Chamber allowed an outside organization to run the sign lighting event the next year, which was an “unusual and risky” decision for the Chamber, according to the statement. The Pride lighting was done under a license on a year-by-year basis. The Chamber said that the primary assurance factor to enter into such an arrangement was “confidence in the oversight of Venice Pride Board of Directors.”

However, the entire Board of Directors of Venice Pride has since resigned. The Chamber said in the statement that each Board member had various reasons to resign, “all concerning the actions and behavior of Grant Turck.”

Furthermore, the Chamber said that during the two years of Venice Pride’s oversight of the event, there have been a number of direct violations of the agreement, citing the failure to contribute agreed-upon bulb sponsorship fees to the Sign maintenance fund as “most egregious.”  The Chamber said that allowing Venice Pride to collect funds for bulb adoptions in order to assist in funding the Sign Lighting was unprecedented, and done as a concrete show of the Chamber’s support for the LGBTQ community.

“The fact that the agreed percentage was never paid is unconscionable,” The Chamber said.

It is with these reasons that the Chamber qualified its recent actions against Venice Pride. The statement said that the Chamber is working with the former Board members of Venice Pride to create a Pride Committee to help with the production of the sign lighting event in the future. 

“This will ensure transparency and accountability and that the event benefits the community and helps maintain the Venice Sign as opposed to benefiting one person,” the Chamber said.

The Chamber concluded its statement by referencing the maintenance. Schedule of the Venice Sign, explaining that it has been nearly 12 years since it had last been renovated.

“While from the ground, it appears like no problems exist; we regularly maintain the Sign with an expert technician,” the Chamber said. “And after nearly 12 years there are a number of issues that are problematic and require repair and restoration.” 

The Chamber is currently soliciting estimates for the renovation. Maintenance dates have yet to been set.