Politics

Gulf Coast African-American Chamber down to one member?

March 28, 2012


Ok, let’s just say it. There is no Gulf Coast African-American Chamber of Commerce. There is a Florida corporation, but it appears to only have one member– George Hawthorne.

Hawthorne will not, can not, produce a list of board of directors- even though the organization’s bylaws state it must have a minimum of seven members. When Councilman John Jerralds challenged him, no business owners came forward to say they were part of the chamber or its board. We can’t get minutes or financial reports from the chamber.

At one time. Gulf Power’s Bentina Terry, Mike Hicks of Hixardt and Rodney Jackson of Coastal Bank were all board members. They have all moved on, which leaves the questions: When was the last time the chamber had an election? Who elected Hawthorne its president?

Being a president of the Gulf Coast African-American Chamber of Commerce gives Hawthorne an ex-offico seat on the Pensacola Chamber board. He has made oral reports to the Pensacola Chamber of Commerce at its monthly board meetings, but those reports are more on his Diversity Program Advisors, his Gulf Coast Contractors Academy, Inc. or his efforts on the EBO program at the Maritime Park. The Pensacola City Council appropriated $10,000 for the Gulf Coast African-American Chamber in its current budget, but Hawthorne hasn’t applied for the money. To get it, he will have to provide the city financials and a budget.

If there is no GCAACC, then Hawthorne needs to give up that the chamber’s seat on the Pensacola Chamber board.

Hawthorne has told our reporter that he is reorganizing, but will that organization be valid? Will it truly represent the local African-American business community or will be just a string businesses either owned by or tied to Hawthorne.

Transparency will be the key.

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  • Cal Robinson March 28, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    I suspect they don’t have a full board otherwise there is no reason not to give out the names of the executive committee, if not the full BOD list.

    Why the secrecy?

    A quick search at sunbiz.org is all it takes. It looks like George is listing his home address for GCAACC.

    Principal Address
    14 W JORDAN ST
    PENSACOLA FL 32501
    Changed 10/13/2011

    Mailing Address
    14 W JORDAN ST
    PENSACOLA FL 32501
    Changed 10/13/2011

    Registered Agent Name & Address
    HAWTHORNE, GEORGE
    14 W JORDAN ST
    PENSACOLA FL 32501
    Name Changed: 10/13/2011
    Address Changed: 10/13/2011

    Officer/Director Detail

    Title CD
    HAWTHORNE, GEORGE
    14 W JORDAN ST
    PENSACOLA FL 32501

    Title D
    EDNA, LOCKLIN
    14 W JORDAN ST
    PENSACOLA FL 32501

    Title SD
    PHYLESIA, BALDWIN
    2057 PIN HIGH DR
    PENSACOLA FL 32526 ES

    I admit I don’t know what CD, D and SD mean by way of title when you usually have president, vice president, secretary and treasurer.

    Here’s a link to the last corporate report filed with the state: http://sunbiz.org/pdf/13292872.pdf

    Seriously, all this hiding of who the GCAACC board members are seems like a smoke screen to hide the larger organizational problems.

  • Hiram Duplesis March 28, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    This is outrageous. George, step away from the GCAACC slowly without making any sudden moves. If you have allowed the African-American Chamber to linger in such a dysfunctional state, I doubt seriously if any business owner will want to be a part.

    Yes, the GCAACC is a private non-profit organization, however it has received public funds in the past and the tax-payers have a defined right to hold the organization accountable for expenditures that were made during the periods that it received public funding.

  • Teresa March 28, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    I have one question…Is this a surprise to anyone?

  • Romi White March 28, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    Mr. Hawthorne claims he doesn’t have to be responsive to anyone other than their members and partner, the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber, of which Mr. Outzen is a director; therefore, Mr. Hawthorne is seemingly providing “conflicting” information by remaining uncooperative toward Outzen.

  • George Hawthorne March 28, 2012 at 11:38 am

    Rick,

    I appreciate your concerns and agree with your position.

    However, I am COMMITTING to YOU AND your staff (and all other media outlets that have been calling me) that when we finalize our “reorganization” and AFTER it is vetted and agreed to by our members and BOD … we will fully disclose our organizational plans, programs and strategies.

    Let us do our work and I promise you I will fully be transparent as to our organization.

    However, public “curiosity” or press “deadlines” are not my concern … I am concerned with fulfilling our objectives for our members and producing an “operating plan” for the GCAACC that is self-sustaining and produces the desired results.

    Give me time and you will be pleasently surprised at the outcome. I fully respect your genuine desire to assist the minority community and we share many of the same goals.

    However, I hope you understand the need for us to “work-out” our plans on OUR schedule.

  • Leroy Carter March 28, 2012 at 11:11 am

    Maybe the Pensacola Chamber needs diversity training. In this day and age we should not be having to deal with these issues.

  • George Hawthorne March 28, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Rick,

    There are members and we have a BOD. I understand everyone desire for a “public” release of our organization’s membership, governance structure, operational plans, business strategy, strategic direction and programmatic objectives.

    However, I hope that you can understand the position of our organization to “reposition” our business association in a strategic manner that is based upon private funding and self-sustaining programs and operations.

    Given the fact, that we do not take “public” money nor are seeking “public” subsidies it is not appropriate for us to have to make public disclosures until we, as an organization, have an “operations plan” that has been fully vetted and agreed to by our BOD and Members.

    You must understand that the GCAACC is a 501(c)6 non-profit business association that is accountable to its members and directors. We have no requirements to be responsive to anyone except our members and our strategic partner (Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce).

    Furthermore, if any person, group or businesses are not supportive of our organization thay are fully able to form their OWN organization and call it anything they want, except the GCAACC. They can take any direction, form their own relationships, serve their own members and/or advocate for anything they want.

    However, if someone or some business wants to join the GCAACC as a member then pay their membership dues and then they can be a part of the formulation of the GCAACC’s operations, strategies, programs and governance.

    I have the opportunity to participate in various organizations and boards, as Chairman of the GCAACC, because of effectiveness of the work; the relationships I have built; and the respect for my abilities that I have continuously demonstrated over the last 2 years as Chairman of the GCAACC.

    Clearly, if I hadn’t been successful in my efforts, been diligent in my advocacy and contributed MY DOLLARS to the GCAACC, we wouldn’t be talking about the GCAACC at all because it would have ceased to exist.

    Clearly, if you have the bylaws, as you state, you will see that the members have the opportunity to change the leadership of the GCAACC.

    Basically, if you or anyone else wants to have input into the GCAACC operations pay your dues become a member and then all input is welcomed and needed.

    At the end of the day, firstly, the GCAACC is “private” organization that seeks to assist its members in the development of their business’ profitability and secondly for the advocating for more business oportunities for all of Pensacola with an strategy of “inclusion.”

    I have committed to your staff (and all other media outlets that have been calling me) that when we finalize our “reorganization” we will fully disclose our direction … let us do our work and I promise you I will fully be transparent as to our organization.

    Thank You!

    • Rick Outzen March 28, 2012 at 11:18 am

      George,
      I disagree. You have a responsibility to the community. Every chamber of commerce in this area lists its board of directors. The lack of transparency with minutes, board roster and budget need to be addressed. We have no proof that you put any of your dollars into the organization and for what they were spent. The GCAACC no longer has an active website, the telephone number for the chamber is disconnected – 850-433-0593.

      Sorry, George, we can’t let you skate on this one. Put up the proof. Provide us the board of directors, minutes and financials.

  • Leroy Carter March 28, 2012 at 10:32 am

    First why do we need a chamber just for the blacks? For them to be inclusive they should work with the Bay Area Chamber for the good of everyone. I wonder just what is in it for Hawthorn. Just how much money is he making from his involvement in the Diversity Program Advisors, his Gulf Coast Contractors Academy, Inc. or his efforts on the EBO program at the Maritime Park? Something does not smell right with the whold issue.

    • Rick Outzen March 28, 2012 at 10:42 am

      I believe a non-profit promoting the development of African-American-owned businesses has merit. The Pensacola Chamber hasn’t been the model of diversity.

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