Terminated: Commercial Closet's Executive Director 

Since early this year, Commercial Closet Association has been in negotiations with GLAAD to dissolve into one advertising media program overseen by the larger nonprofit. But CCA founder Michael Wilke says he was supposed to join GLAAD in this new joint venture. Then on Monday, CCA's board announced the merger -- and Wilke's termination...which Wilke says took him completely by surprise. The board says that's hard to believe and that Wilke was told he'd been terminated November 4.

BY Ross von Metzke

November 12 2008 1:00 AM ET

Since the
beginning of 2008, Commercial Closet Association founder
Michael Wilke says he and his board of directors have been
in negotiations with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance
Against Defamation to form a joint advertising media
program -- one that he would oversee in conjunction
with GLAAD.

Negotiations for
a January 2009 merger had been all but finalized, and in
June, Wilke and his editorial director had moved into
GLAAD’s New York offices.

On Monday, days
after learning from his board of directors that the
merger had gone through two months ahead of schedule, Wilke
says he found out from an article on Advertising
Age
’s website that he would no longer be
with the organization he saw blossom into a full-time
venture almost eight years ago.

“There
wasn’t supposed to be a shutdown,” Wilke told
Advocate.com. “That was never planned. I know
the board was very concerned about being in the black
at the end of the year, so their solution was to cancel our
big fund-raiser and to let me go.”

Stephanie
Blackwood, who sits on CCA’s board as the vice
president and previously served as the associate
publisher of TheAdvocate in the mid 1990s, says the Ad
Age
article couldn't possibly have been the first
Wilke learned of his termination. She says he was let go
at a board meeting held on the fourth of November. Wilke had
just returned from a 10-day trip to Russia -- a trip
Blackwood says she and the rest of the board had to
hear about through second party sources. Wilke left
for Russia on October 24. While he was gone, Wilke says
the board made the decision to dissolve CCA.

Blackwood says
the board called an emergency meeting the day Wilke
was due to leave the country to discuss financial problems
and possible solutions. Wilke didn’t attend.
Blackwood says that in Wilke's absence, the board had
to move forward with further discussions, but agreed to
meet with Wilke upon his return. By the time he got back,
Blackwood says the board had already been forced to
take "drastic action."

“When this
came down…I contacted [GLAAD],” Wilke says.
“In light of the decision by the board, I
asked, ‘Does this change [my employment]?’

He says Rashad
Robinson, who will oversee the new venture (and to whom
Wilke says he would have reported), had said he
wasn’t certain about Wilke's status and
directed him to talk to GLAAD president Neil Giuliano.
Because of the attention surrounding Election Day, Wilke
says, he knew he’d have to wait for a response.

But Giuliano says
the decision to fire Wilke was the board's, not
GLAAD’s. By moving Wilke and his coworker into the
GLAAD offices, Giuliano says the intention was to get
“Mike Wilke out of his living room
and…give them an office, some overhead, and all the
things that come with working in an office.”

As for Wilke
sticking with the organization, Giuliano says that decision
was ultimately up to CCA’s board.

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