$40,000 Payment Demanded from Mateel by Today or Not Only the Community Center But the Board President Will Have Their Assets Attached, Says Sysco
The financial woes of the Mateel Community Center continued to escalate as the newly elected Board Members were seated at Tuesday’s meeting. During the Finance Committee Report, President Garth Epling told the Board that he and the Mateel are about to have their assets attached for the unpaid debt from Reggae on the River 2017. The Mateel has an unpaid bill of $30,000 with Sysco, a multinational food distribution corporation, for services in 2017. There is now an additional $10,000 in late penalties and collection fees. No legal costs are included in that sum yet.
On Tuesday, January 16, Epling received a demand for payment by Thursday, January 18th. Otherwise, the demand states, Sysco will begin legal action to attach the assets of both the Mateel Community Center and of Board Member Garth Epling “individually, solely and separately. “
Epling’s liability arises out of a last minute refrigerated truck rental for Reggae on the River in 2014. The contract Epling signed “on the dusty hood of a truck in the pre-show chaos” contained a Promissory Note the company is using to hold Epling personally liable for bills incurred three years later.
Epling, upon receipt of this correspondence, did consult an attorney. Epling did not share the details of that consultation, but certainly, Epling did not appear to have been reassured by the information he received.
In the course of this conversation it was revealed that, despite the Mateel’s financial crisis having begun nearly five months ago, as of Tuesday night, the Board has not researched its options and opportunities as 501c3. At Tuesday’s Board Meeting, Board Members had no idea if Chapter 11 Bankruptcy was an option for non-profit corporations. Electee Helliwell informed the Board that Chapter 11 is, potentially, an option.
Board Member Dusty Hughston says the Mateel will suffer from an asset encumbrance by Sysco because it will reduce the Board of Directors’ ability to secure a loan.
Hopefully, in the nick of time, the Mateel received word earlier that very day, that the Humboldt Area Foundation (HAF) did award the Mateel $5,000 to use for financial planning consulting. In a conversation after the meeting adjourned, Board Member Meghan Gomes said HAF will help the Mateel set up a meeting with an appropriate financial advisor, and she hopes that process will move quickly.
Regarding Reggae, the Board reports it is currently in the third round of negotiations with a “partner” for Reggae on the River 2018. The Board was very reluctant to give details but did say if a contract is entered, the partner, and not the Mateel Community Center, will be the producer of Reggae on the River 2018. Hughston says an announcement will be made within the next three weeks or the show cannot happen.
The Mateel is currently planning to hold the Summer Arts and Music Festival in 2018. Business sponsorship for the event is rolling in. The Board intends to return to a more local incarnation of Summer Arts with plenty of local dance troupes, kids’ performances and tweener musicians. The Board says the focus will return to families and community and less on a party atmosphere as requested by the membership.
The Board determined its next step toward Summer Arts 2018 to be contacting unpaid vendors, updating them on the Mateel’s financial situation, and developing agreeable payment plans with them. After those conversations, the media and publicity campaign will begin. Although, when asked, the Events and Talent Committee does not seem to have appointed a person to coordinate booking talent and performances.
Fundraising outside of events is slow. The Rainmaker campaign has not produced much revenue and will soon be abandoned. The Membership form on the Mateel website has been updated and improved. It is now operated by Little Green Light.
The Board encouraged the Fundraising Committee to begin an emergency fundraising drive for the $40,000 to meet the unpaid Sysco bill.
Gomes says that community members have come forward to help with various fundraising campaigns. Nicole Divine has spearheaded auctioning redwood sculptures by Sacco. The larger than life-size sculptures have been on display in a silent bid display at various places around the community and will be returning to the Mateel soon. The auction will be completed at the February 14th at the Matisyahu performance.
Gomes also said community members had taken time with family for the holidays, but that she expects they will return to their efforts in supporting the Mateel’s direct fundraising efforts very soon.
The Mateel Meal was not on the agenda although when it was suspended, it had been scheduled to return in January.
The topic of transparency was on the agenda, but the Board discussed Confidentiality Agreements under that topic. They agreed on the need to get them signed because a Board Member has violated it, but hasn’t actually signed one.
When asked about transparency, the Board did determine that posting the Board’s agendas and minutes on the Mateel website will help the community feel more fully engaged with the Center. The Board determined that the minutes will be limited to the actions taken to minimize intrusiveness and “micro-combing of the notes.”
Also note, after elections last month, a new board was seated. The newly elected, and re-elected, Board Members are long time Mateel Member Bruce Champee, Steve Helliwell–a Financial Counselor with the Community Credit Union of Southern Humboldt, and Dusty Hughston re-elected incumbent. The new Board Members were seated after the agenda proceeded to new business.