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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