The Courtroom Awaits

or: …Elephant Still Sighted

In respect to the previous posting, things have just recently surfaced regarding the morass, still left, of this longrunning debacle. To be fair to those who have claims in process, or pending, against the Coop, which may cost the organization alot, some history needs to be addressed before we can close this convesation with the elephant apples in the room and what they portend.

The elephant appeared in this movie on April 26, 2019, and a year later, April 14, 2020. Serious at that time, as now, some damages occurred to individuals that have taken time to pass through the judicial system, both State and Federal. The clear and logical outcomes which were predicted and possible to be easily seen then, have unfortunately come to pass. The elephant, still standing, and now, stomping …. in the room….

Some likely factual elements are these:

At a certain point more than two years ago the previous Manager of the Arcata Store, Vince, went to the General Manager, Melanie Bettenhausen, and informed her of unmistakable embezzlement on the gift card accounts that he had warned her about, previously. She got cross due to his insistence and she fired him on the spot. Several folks saw this. Bettenhausen immediately huddled up with head of HR (Mei Mei Sanders), and, to cover their brash move, almost immediately had Fiske agree to an official poor assessment letter, generated ex post facto, to be included in his personnel file Their orders were carried out by the Head of Human Relations, (the illustrious entrepreneur, Michelle Sanders, natch. ) Vince had worked there 17 years, without a single write up, and came from three generations of retail sales. A month, or so, later, Bettenhausen fired the Chief Financial Office, Brandy Cogburn, for inexplicable activity on the gift card account and other phony stuff. The Board OKed it and, off Brandy Cogburn flew, with no investigation by Bettenhausen, nor Fiske, further.

This guy Vince, now an ex-manager with a wife, two kids and a life to support, was turned down up at Jolly Giant of HSU, due to the letter in his HR file, (Generated by Mei M Sanders, in an act that was approved by Mr. Fiske, as President).

Tears were shed at the General Meeting that year, honest tears, for this guy and family. It was embarrassing to watch. The GM, Bettenhausen, tried to regain control of the situation as Fiske literally planted is face on the table in front of him and all the others on the Board of Directors watched in sullen wonder. About a third of the people walked out in protest. ….

Then ten days went by and the Vice President of the Board of Directors of the NorthCoast Coop, during the next Monthly Board Meeting, took the mike, and asked if there were any results of negotiation with the ex Manager or his lawyer (newly hired).

Fiske, as President, replied: “There are no negotiations, nor do we plan to…”. Which is exactly what happened. In an incredible and, now, historical, “monkeys in the wheelhouse” with a “read it and weep” cherry on top, moment,..

alia iacta est : the die is cast

Robert, the Vice President of the Northcoast Coop Board of Directors, called me four days later and we spoke about developments and his withdrawal from the Board. He was, and likely, is, unhappy.

Vince’s cases were picked up by a State Lawyer and a very sharp lawyer here in Humboldt, who was a former Federal Prosecutor. His cases have groaned, as they will, through the system.

Two years of judicial and State agency processes with expensive lawyers runs on.

Meantime, the person accused by Vince of filching cards, etc, was legally accused by the Yuroks of embezzling $100,000 and and was quickly sent up for 21 months in Federal Prison. She’s there now, send her a letter. In her trial proceedings, now a public document, it shows that the NorthCoast Coop acknowledged that Brandy Cogburn, the Chief Financial Officer, did rip a credit card and wrote some checks that bounced.

This fact adds some gravitas to the ex-managers case, and the resolution is closely pending. That elephant is standing. One thing for sure, somebody gonna get that thing out. Those that led it there, have downshifted and already ridden off.

Special thanks to Mary-Ella Anderson, former Board member and Arcata journalist.

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