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The beleaguered leader of a prominent nonprofit in southeastern San Diego has resigned, the organization announced Sunday through an email to residents.

Barbara Howard, who was chairwoman of the Coalition of Neighborhood Councils, which represents 23 neighborhoods in southeastern San Diego, has overseen the nonprofit’s operations and finances since 2004. The organization was formed to politically empower the community and has recently provided food and job training programs to youth through grant money.

Howard, however, has faced harsh criticism over the organization’s financial fall and its response to turmoil among residents. A small group of residents first called for her resignation last year after the board of directors that she led fired the nonprofit’s executive director, Dwayne Crenshaw.

Crenshaw later sued the nonprofit, arguing that he was fired for being gay. In June, Crenshaw and the nonprofit settled the lawsuit, but that didn’t appease critics in the community, who continued to call for an overhaul of the organization’s leadership.

Howard said today that she voluntarily resigned to address personal matters, and didn’t step down because of the criticisms. She said it was the right time because other residents have stepped up to take over and chart a new direction for the organization.

“It wasn’t a hasty one (decision). I’ve been working on this for years,” Howard said.

In retrospect, Howard said she “didn’t step back quick enough” from her volunteer position as chairwoman. She continued on, aiming to stabilize the organization’s future before she left its top post.

But that didn’t happen.

Just two years ago, tax records show the nonprofit reported $1.4 million in revenue. In June, the board told residents that it had less than $400,000 of dedicated funding. It cut staff from 23 to seven.

Facing financial pressure, one group of residents proposed dissolving the organization. Others wanted it to split into two organizations with separate missions. Howard pushed for the status quo.

If Howard hadn’t resigned, she would have faced an election later this month — effectively a vote by area residents to measure her performance. Instead, she stepped aside to see new people take the helm.

Asked what her legacy as chairwoman will be, Howard replied: “I want the work that I’ve done to speak for me.”

Please contact Keegan Kyle directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/keegankyle.

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