Center on Halsted CEO responds to criticism

Thu. August 6, 2015 7:35 AM by News Staff

modesto “tico” valle

photo credit // file

Modesto “Tico” Valle: Change comes from accessing our relationships with stakeholders

Chicago, IL - Thirty-one former Center on Halsted employees submitted a letter to the Center's board the week of July 13 asking it to access the management style of CEO Modesto "Tico" Valle.

"Quite simply, for all of his talents, Modesto Tico Valle may not be best suited in his current role," states a letter. "During his tenure, he has sown a culture of distrust and suspicion among the staff, often employing threats and intimidation. He has a pattern of recruiting highly qualified staff and then undermining their performance and initiative until they feel demoralized and undervalued. Additionally, he exhibits a pattern of overt hostility with targeted staff members for reasons that seem uneven to the level of hostility."

The full letter was published by the Windy City Times on July 29, sparking sharp criticism and debate over the future of Chicago's LGBT community center.

Valle offered the following statement:

"At Center on Halsted, we strive to nurture a safe, productive environment focused around our core values: excellence, integrity, respect, diversity, inclusion and accountability. As a community organization, we realize that the individuals we interface with – encompassing patrons, clients, staff, donors, volunteers, and visitors – have varied experiences and viewpoints, informed from a wide host of factors. It is never our intention to invalidate these opinions, but rather it is our vision to create a space whereby such diversity can be celebrated.

We agree with the thirty-one individuals, former employees and volunteers, who sent a letter to the Center on Halsted board of directors, that change comes from accessing our relationships with stakeholders. The board of directors will review how the organization conducts its work, identify areas for improvement, and enact any necessary changes.

Center on Halsted opened in 2007 and we have grown as an organization because of our responsiveness to community. In the past eight years, we've seen unprecedented growth, marked from an increase in clients served and programs offered, to a greater number of team members on staff, and an expansion of our physical footprint to include Center on Addison, an LGBTQ Senior Center, and Town Hall Apartments, encompassing the whole block from Addison to Waveland on Halsted Street. Yet, our work is not done. This is evidenced by our robust planning efforts to address youth housing needs and the continued collaborations we share with partner agencies and other renowned civic organizations. Center on Halsted, as a core tenant of the organization, will continue to evolve through our responsiveness and commitment to the LGBTQ community."

Center Board President Duane DesParte told Windy City Times that the Center's board would take the letter under advisement, but he said they remain confident in Valle's stewardship. The newsweekly spoke with nine of the thirty-one former employees and each stated that they all personally experienced unpleasant dealings with Valle.

Tom Elliott, Center on Halsted Director of Public Relations from January 2013 to January 2014, told that his decision to sign the letter was not made lightly.

"I'm proud of the work I did at COH, and still believe it is a powerful resource for our community," said Elliott. "But I also believe a lack of leadership at the top prohibits it from realizing its full potential and allowing its employees to maintain a higher quality of life and healthy work environment."

After reading about the criticism, a number of current employees and community leaders contacted to offer support for Valle and the organization.

"My experiences aren't in line with the experiences outlined in this letter," said Eric Wilkerson, COH Individual Giving Officer since August 2014. "Perspectives are based on experiences. All experiences are different. It is our responsibility, as individuals, partners, friends, family, institutions, organizations, and a society to learn from the varied perspectives."

"Tico has shown nothing but support for many organizations and people," said community organizer Bill Gubrud. "He has supported the efforts of the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame and Out at Wrigley."

Wilkerson added, "I don't want this letter to derail the work behind the mission. I don't want our patrons to be harmed."

Editor's note: Elliott and Wilkerson have both previously written columns for