Monday, May 30 , 2016, 9:14 pm | A Few Clouds 57º




Veterans Coordinating Council Battles Over Financials and Its Future

The group, struggling to keep open the doors to the Veterans Memorial Building, demands its chairman's resignation then votes to reinstate him

By Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @laraanncooper |

Wednesday's meeting of the Veterans Coordinating Council reached an amusing level of theatrics, which crescendoed as the council demanded its chairman's resignation only to backpedal, voting for him to resume as leader — all within a span of 20 minutes.

That vote came after an hour of cantankerous back and forth dialogue among 14 members of the council, who are facing an uncertain future and a deteriorating financial situation. 

"And that was a quiet meeting," joked Bob Handy, the council member who initially called for chairman Michael Cook's resignation.

Wednesday's meeting provided a fractured view of the council, which is made up of representatives from different veterans groups and has collectively managed the Veterans Memorial Building at 112 W. Cabrillo Blvd. 

In December, county supervisors sent a clear message to the council that they would be asking for a plan that would shift management back to the county, the owner of the building, which sits on prime real estate in the heart of Santa Barbara's waterfront.

The council is broke for all intents and purposes, members said Wednesday, and is struggling to keep the doors to the veterans building open until the county resumes control.

How to pay staff until that time, keep events running and other details of transition until the county takes over management of the building, next month at the earliest, are still open questions.

"We don't know what lies ahead," Cook said at the beginning of the meeting. "The VCC is broke; we're not self-sustaining."

As of Sunday, the group will not have enough money to staff the building, said Charles "Crash" Huff, a retired Navy commander who assumed management of the property last year.

The earliest that county supervisors could approve the new agreement for management is at the Feb. 4 meeting, said Greg Chanis, assistant director for the county's general services department, which would be managing the building.

The existing management agreement doesn't have an early termination clause, and Chanis said the county wants the building to continue operation in the meantime.

When one council member asked if Huff could stay and help manage the property, Huff responded that he and his staff were "here as long as you can pay us."

The council has undergone a tumultuous several months, as its former chairman, Steve Penner, resigned earlier this month and chairman Cook stepped in, immediately making a controversial decision to recall a $15,000 amount given to the council by the Pierre Claeyssens Foundation.

Some on the council said the amount was a donation given to cover the cost of a labor claim from a former employee, and others said it was a loan and the money had been taken back. 

Either way, Cook made the decision to recall the money without a vote, which angered many on the board.

The board took a vote Wednesday to ask for Cook's resignation, but voted him back into the position when it was discovered that someone needed to be in charge for a memorial service that would be held at the veterans building over the weekend.

"I need a boss," Huff called out to the board as they argued among themselves, and Cook was eventually reinstated.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.




Reader Comments

Noozhawk's intent is not to limit the discussion of our stories but to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and must be free of profanity and abusive language and attacks.

By posting on Noozhawk, you:

» Agree to be respectful. Noozhawk encourages intelligent and impassioned discussion and debate, but now has a zero-tolerance policy for those who cannot express their opinions in a civil manner.

» Agree not to use Noozhawk’s forums for personal attacks. This includes any sort of personal attack — including, but not limited to, the people in our stories, the journalists who create these stories, fellow readers who comment on our stories, or anyone else in our community.

» Agree not to post on Noozhawk any comments that can be construed as libelous, defamatory, obscene, profane, vulgar, harmful, threatening, tortious, harassing, abusive, hateful, sexist, racially or ethnically objectionable, or that are invasive of another’s privacy.

» Agree not to post in a manner than emulates, purports or pretends to be someone else. Under no circumstances are readers posting to Noozhawk to knowingly use the name or identity of another person, whether that is another reader on this site, a public figure, celebrity, elected official or fictitious character. This also means readers will not knowingly give out any personal information of other members of these forums.

» Agree not to solicit others. You agree you will not use Noozhawk’s forums to solicit and/or advertise for personal blogs and websites, without Noozhawk’s express written approval.

Noozhawk’s management and editors, in our sole discretion, retain the right to remove individual posts or to revoke the access privileges of anyone who we believe has violated any of these terms or any other term of this agreement; however, we are under no obligation to do so.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

 

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.