The Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center in Fort Bragg receives hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in government funding. That's tax dollars from the public. Yet, in these Covid times the Hospitality Center Board of Directors has not included the public in a single monthly meeting. If you go online and seek out the smaller special districts on the Mendocino Coast, you will find Zoom and/or teleconference links for all the meetings this writer is aware of. Some of those had glitches in their early attempts at such gatherings, but at the very least the effort was made to hold Recreation & Parks, Harbor District, or Healthcare District meetings with public input included. The Hospitality Center has seemingly gone out of its way to avoid the public. In effect, Covid-19 has given its board a smokescreen to operate undercover for ten months now.
Using the most recent tax records available, the Hospitality Center (HC) receives at least $400,000 in government funding annually. With that in mind, one might reasonably presume that the public would be apprised of HC board of directors meetings if not invited to them. A check of the HC website provides no clue as to when the HC board meets. As of January 4, their web pages hadn't advanced beyond a December 2020 activities calendar. That calendar uses the word “community” all over the place, but never to welcome the community as a whole, and certainly not to welcome the outside community to a board of directors meeting.
A look at the HC Facebook page doesn't give any hints about board of directors meetings either. When last the AVA broached the topic of the Hospitality Center in November 2020 it was to focus on the correspondences of the last two full time executive directors of HC. The “Hospitality” organization has been without an executive director since Carla Harris was let go on July 1, 2020. As noted in the November piece, Ms. Harris had some choice words regarding the HC board of directors. “They [the MCHC board] are out of touch with reality. They enable folks, they thing [think] they are above the law and don't event [even] reside in Fort Bragg. They have no clue how to help people out of homelessness and have no idea what it takes to run an efficient and effective nonprofit organization. They are a bunch of narcissistic arses with their heads burried [sic] so deep in the sand that they can't even see beyond their own bullshit.”
Her predecessor, Anna Shaw, echoed those comments. “I agree 100% with Carla Harris’s experience of the MCHC Board of Directors, specifically that ‘they are out of touch with reality, they don’t care about the community, and they are out of control. They enable folks, they think they are above the law and they don’t even reside in Fort Bragg. They have no clue how to help people out of homelessness and have no idea what it takes to run an efficient and effective nonprofit organization.’
“I was Executive Director for almost 8 years, I believe Carla’s tenure in that position was about 20 months. That’s nearly ten years total that the MCHC Board of Directors has mis-run this organization, as reported by the most senior staff.”
Well, lo and behold, word on the street is that Hospitality Center is replacing some of the current directors. The key phrase being, “word on the street.” You won't find any notice of it on their web page or Facebook page. Unlike the radio notices I have heard quite frequently advertising for applicants to fill a vacant Fort Bragg City Council seat, there appears to be no public media outreach to encourage coastal citizens to apply for the HC board.
If one digs down deep on the Hospitality Center web site, an application for a seat on the board can be found. Of course, by the time this is read by the general public HC Board President Carole White may have hand-picked her own favorites. It is worthy of note that since taking over the Old Coast Hotel site at 101 North Franklin Street in Fort Bragg not a single central business district owner has been added to the HC Board of Directors.
Fort Bragg business owner Jim Britt has voiced an idea for change at HC. He would like to see the organization move from a non-profit closed board of directors to a membership organization. In that scenario, HC could sell memberships. Britt has offered up an example in which coastal citizens could pay a $25 annual membership fee and businesses $100, with both membership classes allowed to vote as board members. Britt maintains such a change would only require a board resolution filed with the California Secretary of State's office, and that the corporate 501(c)3 status would otherwise go unaltered. According to Britt, this new structure would allow residents of the coast and particularly Fort Bragg to feel more involved and invested in the operations of the Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center. Britt feels that this style of board should include a city employee and a member of the police force. Britt states that the advantages of public ownership of HC would not only include the infusion of public money, but also that public ownership would bring quicker and more effective resolution to problems that HC leadership has ignored for too long.