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After backlash, Mazzoni Center CEO resigns

Controversy continues to roil the LGBT healthcare provider.

Lydia Gonzalez Sciarrino resigned after seven months leading the Mazzoni Center.
Lydia Gonzalez Sciarrino resigned after seven months leading the Mazzoni Center.Read moreJESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer.

Seven months after her controversial hiring, Mazzoni Center CEO Lydia Gonzalez Sciarrino — a straight woman leading the LGBT health-care provider — will be stepping down.

"Mazzoni Center's board hired Sciarrino because of her proven track record of excellence in leading a health-services agency," the organization said in a statement. "Sciarrino's tenure has demonstrated, both to the board and to Sciarrino herself, that no single person can lead Mazzoni Center in the way our staff and communities need at this time."

The news was first reported by the Philadelphia Gay News and Philadelphia Magazine.

Mazzoni chief operating officer Ron Powers, a 20-year veteran of the organization, also is resigning, the Gay News reported. The paper said three staffers would lead the center after Sciarrino leaves next month.

In March, some in the queer community, including the Black and Brown Workers Cooperative activist group, called for Sciarrino's firing, while Mazzoni defended her hire.

"Why is a straight Latinx woman running an LGBTQ-specific health center in Philadelphia, Pa.? She's from Florida. Why?" asked Abdul-Aliy Muhammad, cofounder of the collective and a former HIV prevention counselor at the center, in a Facebook video last spring.

At the time, the center's board of directors responded: "We are disappointed members of the community — our community — chose to judge Lydia without first meeting her, based on their perceptions of her race, gender identity, and orientation, and not her qualifications."

>> Read more: Lydia Gonzalez Sciarrino's appointment as the first non-LGBTQ leader of Mazzoni sparked outrage in March. Eight weeks into the job, she made a public appeal to the community.

The organization has faced a slew of controversies over the last 18 months. As the Inquirer and Daily News reported in September: "The same problems keep surfacing: employees of color feeling mistreated by upper management, a disconnect between the CEO and staff, sexual-misconduct accusations against high-ranking officials."

Sciarrino replaced interim CEO Stephen Glassman, who was accused of sexual harassment and fought staffers' attempts to unionize, as well as  former CEO Nurit Shein, who was said to have created  hostile environment for people of color and ignored sexual misconduct allegations against a former medical director.

In August, a few months into Sciarrino's tenure, dozens of staffers walked out to protest the firing of the organization's director of diversity, equity, and inclusion.