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Hospitality House Looks the Other Way

On September 5, 2019, the night manager at the Hospitality House, on North McPherson Street in Fort Bragg, heard what sounded like a dog crying in pain. Stepping outside to a dirt area alongside the building, the night manager spotted Nathaniel Secker and his dog. Secker was beating and yelling at the animal. 

The manager also noticed a sleeping bag on the ground and a makeshift campsite set up in an alcove immediately adjacent to Hospitality House (HH). The night manager informed Secker that he would have to leave the premises.

According to at least one other person familiar with the situation, Secker had been camping on the HH property for three days and nights. Allegedly, permission to trespass and camp had been granted by another HH manager. Apparently some of the legitimate clients inside HH had complained to management, saying they were afraid of the man outside who was displaying multiple outbursts of anger. Reportedly, the manager who had first allowed Secker on the property did nothing, even after the complaints from within the facility.

On the Fort Bragg Police Department (FBPD) log sheet for September 5 there were two relevant calls to Hospitality House. One reported a subject hitting his dog at the site, but not “doing it now.” That occurred in the late afternoon, with an addendum, “Spoke to Hospitality House staff, said no dogs were allowed to be there, said they would call back tonight if there is anything to report.”

The second FBPD report on Sept. 5 contains the heading, “Trespass,” followed by, “unwanted subject on the south side of the building. Subject contacted and left upon request.”

Hospitality House officials did not push for charges to be filed against Mr. Secker. Subsequently, multiple citizens became aware of Secker's treatment of his dog. FBPD was contacted. Sergeants McLaughlin and Awad put out a call for witnesses to come forward.

Meanwhile a central business district store owner asked Hospitality Center (the flagship operation that oversees Hospitality House) executive director Carla Harris how and why the incident at Hospitality House could have happened. Mr. Secker had apparently been camped just outside the building for multiple days with, as noted above, clients complaining about the disturbances he created, and both day and night managers supposedly staffing the place. 

According to the business owner, Ms. Harris promised to perform some sort of investigation into the matter. In a letter sent to Fort Bragg's City Council members, the business owner stated, “Carla Harris assured me that she was going to do an investigation on how and why this could happen with both day and night managers present. She never followed through with any information on an investigation. Carla did not revise policy and also did not instruct her employees to respond to the press release that the Fort Bragg Police Department put out requesting witnesses to come forward. She could — and should — have asked her employees to talk to our Police Department and District Attorney. She never followed through with any information.”

The work of the FBPD brought forth not one, or two, but four witnesses. A Starbucks barista, two employees of Dollar Tree, and a FBPD parking enforcement officer. Each had witnessed Secker violently and viciously abuse his dog in three separate incidences. These witnesses sat through one full nine-to-five Ten Mile Court day without a promised preliminary hearing actually taking place, some of them sticking around though they were losing time at their workplaces. They stayed through parts of two more court days before each testified. No one affiliated with the Hospitality House or Hospitality Center attended the preliminary hearing or any of the other court dates in the Secker case. The prosecution was handled by Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster. 

The business owner's letter bears witness to the lack of cooperation Hospitality House and Hospitality Center provided to the police investigation. “I attended all of the court procedures and not one manager from the Hospitality House showed up.”

The business owner also referenced a Public Safety Committee meeting held while the district attorney's office prepared its case against Secker. At that meeting Hospitality Center Executive Director Harris answered questions from two city council members concerning the dog beating outside HH. Harris stated that the manager who had allowed Secker to trespass on HH property acted appropriately. Harris also gave the council members the impression that all was well at HH. A day later she fired the manager in question, presumably while all was still well at HH.

The work of DA Eyster and the compelling testimony of the four witnesses, concerning Secker's brutal treatment of the dog, led to a guilty finding on two felony counts. 

Nathaniel Secker

The story doesn't end there, however. 

From the time of Secker's arrest to the day of sentencing in January, 2020, and beyond, the dog was confined within the animal control center in Ukiah. More or less isolated for months, he was eventually returned to the Humane Society in Fort Bragg, where the same business owner, alluded to above, took over a re-training regimen of the canine who was re-named Brewer. The business owner gave up multiple hours each morning to work with Brewer, who in a matter of only a couple of weeks went from a frightened isolate to a tail wagging polite, people-friendly animal. He is with an adoptive family now in a new, safe home.

The business owner who worked near magic in retraining Brewer in such short order is not so optimistic about HH and HC. The letter to the Fort Bragg City Council concluded with this assessment, “The Hospitality House and Center continue to abuse our Police Department. They continue to make bad decisions for the community, I’m requesting Carla Harris be questioned on [HH's] policy for animal abuse, violent guests and why she did not follow through with policy changes [which are] endangering everyone, including an innocent animal. She must be held accountable for her actions — and the lack of them.”

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