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Two District Connections

At an October 29 meeting, the Fort Bragg City Council chose to elevate Jim Hurst to the position of  chair at the Noyo Harbor District Board of Commissioners. Doug Albin was selected to fill a vacancy on the harbor commission. Another open seat will be filled by the county.

We will get back to the Noyo Harbor District (NHD), but let's turn our attention to the Mendocino Coast Recreation & Park District (MCRPD). One connection between NHD and MCRPD is that the attorney who represents both districts is Fort Bragg lawyer Jim Jackson. Another connection until recently was the presence of Sarah Bradley Huff as chief grant writer for both districts. Ms. Huff resigned from that role at MCRPD late this summer. 

Readers may recall that more than two years ago California State Parks' OFF-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation (OHMVR) division placed a hold on two grants that Ms. Huff's grant writing had garnered for MCRPD. See August 12, 19, 26, and September 30th AVA articles for background details. On October 9th, the OHMVR sent a letter to MCRPD detailing how the two grants related to a potential off-highway vehicle course on MCRPD property alongside Highway 20 would be closed out.

No funds had been distributed from a $2,739,828 restoration grant Thus that project was closed without further action. However, $127,710 had been advanced by the state on a planning project grant. The bottom line, OHMVR only accepted $51,062 worth of supporting documentation from what Ms. Huff provided on behalf of MCRPD. “Consequently, the amount outstanding from the initial advanced funds is $76,627.14” That according to the October 9th OHMVR letter.

In order to finalize matters on that grant, the letter from OHMVR stated, “Under normal circumstances, the full amount of funds provided to a grantee should be returned when they fail to complete the project as agreed. However, the OHMVR Division is willing to forgo the reimbursement of such grant funds in this circumstance if the $76,627.14 is returned to the State. Additionally, a copy [of] any work completed by any and all contractors, agency personnel, or volunteers must be provided to the OHMVR Division.”

The statement goes on. “[I]n order to close out the Planning project, you must remit a check in the amount identified above and any completed work within sixty (60) calendar days from the date of this notice.”

At an October 21, 2020 meeting, the MCRPD Board of Directors voted 4-0 to do precisely as the OHMVR ordered. 

Ms. Bradley Huff (documents with her last name on it shift from Bradley to Huff and back again) resigned her consulting/grant writing position a few days before the MCRPD board meeting in September. She continues in a similar position with the Noyo Harbor District where she earns 5% of each successful grant awarded to the district.

At MCRPD, Sarah Bradley Huff and her husband John Huff made up two-thirds of the important Regional Parks Committee for a two year period. The other member, Bob Bushansky, appears to have never raised a question about this doubling down of family interests. While this was going on, a 2018 conflict of interest document (Form 700) filed by Ms. Bradley Huff for her work with the Noyo Harbor District shows her in a salaried position, executive director, of the California Recreation Alliance (CRA). The CRA appears to have been an entity involved in the grants to MCRPD that State Parks OHMVR division put a hold on then halted and demanded repayment (cited above).

At a late October board meeting, two commissioners of the Noyo Harbor District questioned the process of Ms. Bradley Huff's grant writing for that special district. The dialogue at the meeting suggested that Ms. Bradley Huff was writing grants and submitting them without running the grant submissions by the commissioners. This strikes an odd note since grant documents often contain a paragraph stating that grant applications are subject to the California Public Records Act (PRA). Thus, withholding grant applications from requesting commissioners would seem an unwise thing to do for a grant writer.

There is also a matter of her husband and MCRPD board member Kirk Marshall being paid for diving services by the Noyo Harbor District (NHD) while Ms. Bradley Huff was the grant writer for that district as well as for MCRPD. Whether the diving services were paid for out of grants paid for by grants procured by Ms. Bradley Huff is not fully clear yet. A tangled web, indeed, still to be thoroughly unraveled...

Perhaps the new commissioners at NHD will do a better job at finding the thread than the old guard. As for attorney Jim Jackson, his allegiance appears to be with the good old boy method. When a request for public records was followed by a request for supporting documents for a NHD board agenda, Mr. Jackson grew defensive, shooting off an email accusing the person requesting the documents (that are generally attached to public board and council agendas) of “harassing” the district secretary by making such a request.

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