By Roger Gitlin for Eye on Del Norte – March 9, 2021

Cronyism is alive and well in Del Norte County. For those unaware of the definition of cronyism in government, it is the practice of partiality in rewarding jobs and contracts to trusted friends, especially in politics and among politicians. The opposite of cronyism is meritocracy.

Supervisors Gerry Hemmingsen and Chris Howard

Pictured here are soon-to-step-down CAO Jay Sarina,

Del Norte Supervisors Gerry Hemmingsen and Chris Howard and Kevin Hartwick. Crony Hartwick and family members dba as North Plaza Professional Partnership is poised to be the new landlord for Family Support Services, in a new 10 year lease with Del Norte County at 1225 N. Marshall at Harding.

The only obstacle to approval is the Board of Supervisors. The cronies are rushing this through at this Tuesday, March 9th meeting without proper vetting.

The cronies skipped the vetting process and omitted the extremely vital Future Facilities Committee meeting where proper vetting is conducted. The omission of this meeting waves a huge red flag.

* The proposed lease from North Plaza contains no escape clause. The proposed lease with TAB Associates allows the County to opt out of this long-term lease if Family Support lose vital State funding.

The public was exposed to the quandary created by DHHS Director Heather Snow in December 2018, when she failed to have an escape clause on the Alcohol and Other Drugs 10 year lease after only two years which would have cost the County $168,000. Let’s be good scouts and BE PREPARED.

* Parking inadequacies have yet to be addressed.

How will 16-19 additional employees (and this does NOT include Family Support clients) vehicles park in the lot already at full maximum?

How will other tenants’ businesses be impacted on this arguably small parking lot?

* The lease is almost too good to be true.

Principal Hartwick promises zero cost escalators over the 120 month term. Really! No tax property tax, common area expenses and maintainence accounted for. Landlord North Plaza Partners will pay all costs associated to Family Services at about $2900 per month ($35,000 per year).

*Proposed landlord failed to hire a space planner, an absolute necessity for any professional presentation.

* Tenant improvments (TI) will be paid by North Plaza Professional Partners. The County requirement will run from $25,000- $50,000 for security system. Cal OSHA mandates and a whole slew of other requirements will certainly add many thousands more. Hartwick and partners will pay these costs. If the County has a secret piggy bank to pay landlord Hartwick, then let the public know this thru the omitted Future Facilities Committee. Failure to disclose future financial considerations proffered by the county is malfeasance and would certainly explain how the newly-effective county 1% sales tax will be applied. Is that what you folks voted for on Measure R?

The Board of Supervisors should table this item until these and many, many other questions are addressed and properly vetted. Also, Mr. Hemmingsen should recuse himself from any vote on this item for besmirching public remarks against current lessor TAB Associates. He clearly harbors a bias. The bias and disdain demonstrated by these cronies is disgusting. The public is dramatically affected by the decisions of our elected representatives. The relationship between our elected and North Plaza is a bit too cozy for a simple rubber stamp approval.

Continued questions to Mr. Howard can be addressed at not only Tuesday ‘s BOS meeting but at his “second office” situated at Sea Quake, a property owned and managed by Kevin Hartwick and partners.

Cronyism is unethical.

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