Huff’s Conflicted Reversal

On Sunday, August 9, this publication ran a quote from John Huff, until recently a member of the Mendocino Coast Recreation & Park District (MCRPD). Huff's statement began, "Recently I made a rash decision to resign from the Mendocino Coast Recreation & Park District Board of Directors due to the direction of ‘inaction’ a majority of the board was taking. After my resignation letter went public I received an unexpected outpouring of support from the community.”

He goes on to cite messages from Supervisor John McCowen, former MCRPD board chair Bill Hayes, and community member Keith Stiver as reasons for changing his mind. Mr. Huff goes on, “I have decided to run for a position on the MCRPD board again on the November 3rd 2020 election on two main fronts.”

Huff claims that some members of the current MCRPD board “just want to sell off the property.” Seemingly, this refers to the land off Highway 20, not too far east of Fort Bragg. Huff states, “I will work with the community, recreation user groups, walkers, hikers, runners, equestrians, school groups, and yes…..OHV riders, and regulatory agencies to make sure that we ALL have [a] place that will benefit the community foremost and bring revenue to the community and MCRPD.”

Secondly, Huff references the current Covid-19 pandemic. “[T]hat doesn’t mean we all have to sit in our houses doing nothing. Especially our kids. Its past time MCRPD got off the fence and started providing recreation opportunities for the residents of the district, the tax payers. ALL the residents, from Gualala to Westport. In the words or Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Highway, it’s time to 'Improvise, Adapt, Overcome.' MCRPD has a stellar recreation programming staff that need to be allowed to 'Improvise' new classes and programs, 'Adapt' existing programs to facilitate smaller group sizes, social distancing, stable groups, and 'Overcome' the barriers that COVID-19 has placed before us.”

In case you missed the 1980s, the Gunnery Sergeant comment refers to Clint Eastwood's film Heartbreak Ridge. Clint produced, directed, and starred as the gunnery sergeant. Being a fan of Eastwood film-making doesn't necessarily pigeonhole someone, due to the broad range of interpretation available in his better efforts, but choosing this particular character to quote in a public statement may lend a clue.

Now, we have to climb down off that movie screen and dig into MCRPD meeting minutes in order to get a glimpse at what is going on behind the Huff resignation and turnaround to run for the same office in November. Minutes are about all we have to go by in these covid times of Zoom and teleconferenced “public” meetings of duly elected local boards. 

June 17, 2020 MCRPD minutes: The board received a report of a meeting two days before with the State Parks Department. Part of that report states that State Parks believes MCRPD “had inappropriate conduct with the relationship between MCRPD and CRA [California Recreation Alliance]. They [State Parks] will not accept grant matches from CRA.”

Those June 17 minutes also note MCRPD Board member Barbara Burkey, of Point Arena, stating that the problem is bigger than the relationship with CRA. She cites Katherine Tobias of State Parks asking that the board members involved in the bidding process step down from MCRPD's board. The minutes conclude this with, “The appearance of impropriety is unacceptable.”

Why is there an appearance of impropriety? 

As of 2018, CRA has an agreement with MCRPD to use the Highway 20 land for Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) classes and training. Sarah Bradley Huff appears to be the executive director of the California Recreation Alliance. Her husband is John Huff. Apparently, Sarah Huff is also a grant writer for MCRPD. 

There are minutes for a February, 21, 2018 MCRPD meeting that highlight an action item authorizing a State of California OHV Planning Grant application. Ms. Bradley Huff presented information about this grant. The record does not reflect any recusal on the part of John Huff. The minutes also reflect that the grant application was approved unanimously by the MCRPD Board.

So, yes, Mrs. Potter, there is reason to wonder about what is going on at MCRPD. That's a second  Counting Crows song reference for those playing along with the home version. Further investigation into possible inappropriate conduct, as State Parks put it, certainly seems warranted. 

Reportedly, Sarah Bradley Huff also serves as a contracted grant writer for the Noyo Harbor District. As legal representative for both districts, perhaps attorney Jim Jackson can shed some light on the matter.

(Hey, Mrs. Potter, you can count crows at malcolmmacdonaldoutlawford.com)

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