The head of a leading South Florida LGBTQ organization who has been criticized for allowing a sex predator to work near children at his community center and playground received the support of his board of directors during a closed-door meeting Wednesday evening.
The board voted against pushing out Robert Boo, who has worked as CEO at The Pride Center at Equality Park in Wilton Manors since 2012, despite demands from some community members that a change of leadership is in order following revelations that Boo kept a convicted predator on staff as a janitor even after the center built a playground on its campus in 2015.
Boo said he knew 63-year-old Clarence Collins — fired last month and subsequently arrested for violating the terms of his release — had a criminal past, but he was unaware of the exact details of his crimes and the state law prohibiting him from working at a playground.
In 1995, Collins was arrested in North Miami Beach and confessed to raping an 11-year-old girl. The girl later told investigators Collins had brandished a gun and threatened to kill her if she reported him. He pleaded guilty to charges of attempted sexual battery on a child younger than 12 and lewd and lascivious conduct on a child younger than 16. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 10 years of probation. He was hired at the center in 2003, a year after he was released..
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The board's vote was not unanimous, according to a statement released after the meeting ended, but members did agree to "censure" Boo and take "formal disciplinary action." The extent of his punishment will be discussed during a meeting on Monday, according to the statement.
The scandal has rocked the Broward County city known for its large LGBTQ population and cast a shadow on the Pride Center, an organization that provides critical services like HIV testing and substance abuse counseling to its visitors.
Wilton Manors Commissioner Julie Carson on Thursday called on the city to cut funding to the center. The city donates $10,000 a year, according to the center's website.
"We entrust a large amount of taxpayer money to the Pride Center, and in light of this egregious breach of trust and serious lapse in judgment, I am no longer comfortable supporting the pride Center until significant change is made in its operating practices, transparency and leadership," Carson said in a statement.