Creator of AIDS Memorial Quilt, Names Project Foundation Settle Lawsuit
September 9, 2005
The Atlanta-based Names Project Foundation -- which owns the AIDS Memorial Quilt -- announced on Wednesday it has settled a lawsuit with the creator of the quilt, the AP/San Jose Mercury News reports. Cleve Jones -- who started the 50-ton quilt in 1987 and served as its spokesperson for 15 years -- agreed to drop his claim that the foundation intentionally caused him mental distress. Charles Thompson, the attorney representing the Names Project, said the settlement involved no exchange of money, but the foundation agreed to allow Jones to nominate four finalists for two positions on its board of directors in 2006. Jones could not be reached for comment, according to the AP/Mercury News (Gross, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 9/7). In his original lawsuit, Jones claimed the foundation fired him from his job, which had an annual salary of $41,500, in December 2003 because he encouraged a plan to take the quilt on a nationwide, election-year tour ending with a display on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. He also alleged that the foundation did not keep its promise to reopen a quilt project office in San Francisco, where the quilt was first sewn and where the foundation was located until 2001. Foundation Board President Edward Gatta said that the foundation did not fire Jones but instead suspended his salary because he refused to meet with officials during the last three months of the year to discuss changes in his role with the organization. In January 2004, the foundation said that Jones, who is HIV-positive, could retain health benefits through the Names Project. In May 2005, San Francisco Superior Court Judge James Warren dismissed some of Jones' charges, saying the foundation had grounds to fire him because he demanded control of the organization and made comments suggesting that Gatta was an ineffective leader of the foundation. However, Warren allowed Jones to continue with the emotional distress claim (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/3).