Dear San Antonio AIDS Foundation Board Members,
My name is Delia Bullock and I am a local internal medicine doctor and HIV specialist. I work as the Medical Director of the University Health System FFACTS Clinic and I am on the faculty in Infectious Diseases at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. I am not representing either of these institutions at this time. I am speaking for myself and any members of San Antonio’s HIV community who don’t have a voice.
I don’t think I can convey to you the depth of the shock, disbelief, confusion and sadness I am feeling at the recent dismissal of David Ewell, the Executive Director of SAAF for the past 23 years. I have known David since 1996, and can testify that he is a gifted, passionate, focused and hard working leader in the community. He and Jill Ripps, your Deputy Executive Director and more than a few others on the staff are truly the strongest AIDS activists in San Antonio and surrounding counties. In this era of complacency and disinterest, they keep the media and San Antonio talking about HIV, prevention and testing.
Through the years David and Jill have spearheaded many programs advancing local HIV education, prevention and testing, and provided links to access medical and dental care. They oversee and lead an organization with very humble beginnings as a hospice. It’s grown into a multifaceted care center. It serves not only those who need hospice, but also provides transitional care for those coming out of the hospital, and for the sick homeless. The case managers help clients navigate a complex network of services around the city. And SAAF serves hot meals three times a day 365 days a year for anyone who is HIV+. They work tirelessly at fundraising and community outreach and have partnered with many business entities to increase awareness of this disease and the stigma. The David I know is a man or exceptional character, and he has been an integral part of all of this. SAAF was already headed in the right direction.
Now Anne Marie Simmons, President of the Board of Directors, has issued a brief, cryptic and uninformative written statement, mailed to all the other AIDS Services Organizations, contracted medical and dental services, and referral agencies that there are “opportunities for growth, (to) further the SAAF mission for clients, . . . a call for new leadership.” It closed with thanks to David for 23 years of dedicated service.” A friend and colleague of Ms. Simmons, Jack Downey of Downey and Associates LLC has been appointed interim director. It is clear that the Board is extremely powerful, and there are no checks and balances, no opportunities for debate and discussion, and no transparency. They can act unilaterally, and they have in this instance. It highlights a real weakness and has the rest of the staff at SAAF on edge. They do not speak out because many of them are afraid of reprisal. And community partners are in the dark.
I’ve read that three board members have resigned since Ms. Simmons assumed the presidency. One, Eric Beckman, has stated in Out In SA that she “harassed, berated and bullied” David at the meetings.
As a member of the community that serves those infected and affected by HIV in this city, I call on Anne Marie Simmons to explain her actions fully, completely and publicly. I call on the rest of the Board to speak out also, defend this if you can. And I call on the community to demand an end to the secrecy of the Board, and a reshaping to guarantee honesty, integrity and transparency.
BRING BACK DAVID
Delia Bullock, MD
Supporters of David Ewell are holding a rally on Monday, May 4 at 7 p.m. across the street from the SAAF building on East Grayson Street.