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Protesters call for AIDS foundation board to step down

Longtime executive director abruptly fired

SAN ANTONIO – Protesters held a rally near the San Antonio AIDS Foundation Monday calling for the organization's board to step down.

The demand comes in the wake of the sudden firing of longtime SAAF Executive Director David Ewell on April 20.

"We don't know why he was fired. We don't know how he was fired," said Dr. Delia Bullock, who works with many of the patients who live at SAAF. "I don't understand where the power of the board comes from and nobody is answering our questions."

Ewell's departure was announced in a letter posted on the organization's website, but it does not state why Ewell was relieved of his duty.

"This board must go," chanted more than a dozen protesters who gathered on the city's East Side. The group called for the immediate resignation of board president Anne Marie Simmons, who they said orchestrated Ewell's ouster. 

Jack Downey, who recently left the San Antonio Symphony after a short three-month stint as president and CEO, has been selected as the interim executive director.

The group feels he is not qualified to hold the position.

"Everyone who works here has a personal tie to HIV and AIDS, and now people are worried about whether their jobs are safe," said Anthony Medrano. "If a new director comes in, does not know what's going on, makes cuts that are essential, lives could be lost." 

SAAF board members decide who joins their group. They also wield the power to push people out. Three board members have resigned since Simmons became president.

For patients like Sandra Laconi, who's battled HIV for more than 20 years, seeing someone who played such a major role in her survival gone is a cruel twist of fate for the patients and nurses.

"I've lost many friends here, but I've seen many friends get better. It breaks my heart to see the injustice that has been done," said Laconi.

KSAT 12 reached out to several members of the SAAF board, but our calls were not returned.