Battle lines were drawn, and counter-accusations showed up on the letter to the editor pages of the local papers from People Productions' CEO Carol Bruno and her supporters and staff.
How did this come to pass, particularly given the fact that Carol Bruno
was a key figure in building the Mateel?What will this rift mean for the Mateel Community Center and Reggae
on the River
, two crucial Humboldt County institutions?For any sort of understanding a look backwards is required.
Above: Joani Rose, director of Recycled Youth
, one of the programs at the Mateel.
The Winter Arts Fair was established as an annual event, one where you could buy tie-dyed T-shirts, hand-woven shawls or cups and bowls made by local potters like John and Carol Bruno
Then in 1983, tragedy struck.
"We had an insurance policy," Bruno
began, "but we didn't have enough money to rebuild, and the [firehall] location wasn't a spot where the building could be large enough for a boogie place."Bruno
friend Shelby proposed putting on a music festival featuring reggae music to raise funds to rebuild.They called it Reggae
on the River
since it took place on land along the Eel River not far from the Mendocino border, a place called French's Camp owned by the Arthur family.
"The first year it lost money, and I was going to get sued by the community," Bruno
recalled."The second year I think we made $400 or $600.Then the third year I think it made $1,800, and then it just went up from there.But every year it worked we'd be, 'Yeah, it made money!'"
It took a five-year search to find just the right place to rebuild the center."Enter Evelyn Rusk, who lives right over there today," said Bruno
, gesturing toward the window."She
husband owned the property that's now the home of the Mateel
recalled the "leap of faith" required in committing to buy the property and build on it.
...Somewhere along the line, with assistance from local lawyer Les Scher, Bruno licensed the name, Reggae on the River, for the Mateel.
had a big job: She
ran the festival -- "with help from a whole lot of people," as she
is quick to point out -- and she
also ran the Mateel
."I was never 'executive director,' I was director," she emphasized, differentiating her past role from the Mateel's current structure.
In between Reggaes, Bruno
and Bassis produced an assortment of concerts at the Mateel
"We had to to keep the cash flow going," Bruno
noted.Right: Carol Bruno of People Productions.
...Bruno and Bassis were in positions of power, and with that power came challenges, some merely jealousy and second-guessing, but also serious questioning about the role the Mateel and Reggae played in the community.
A survey circulated in the mid-'90s asked, "what the community wanted the Mateel
to be," as Bruno
put it."The community said they didn't want it to be a production company -- they wanted it to be a venue where events could be held.That's when we left and formed our own company."Bruno
and Bassis formed People Productions
as a limited liability partnership in 1994.
"We used our own capital to produce events, and contracted to produce Reggae
on the River
," said Bruno
[became] the community center that the community had requested."
had been in charge of producing Reggae
since the beginning, the name, Reggae
on the River
, and the festival itself belonged to the Mateel
, not to her
approached the board and said, 'I may have a year left on my other contract, but I'm not going to do this [work on the move] unless you renegotiate my contract.'"
...Stapp found herself simultaneously overseeing negotiations for the lease with Dimmick while negotiating a new contract with Bruno to operate the festival, one that included an $180,000 fee for People Productions. (The fee, which goes to Bruno and does not include People Production staff work for Reggae, went up to $185,000 in 2006.)
explained, "It was pretty much across the board, everything cost more.
"We revised the budget at the end of July," said Bruno
mentioned a few: an RV that someone smashed into a tree, new demands from county inspectors for the wastewater system and the backstage kitchen, more security for Piercy, 50 cars that had to be towed, a larger volume of trash than anticipated, requiring additional dumpsters and larger payroll for the recycling crew.
According to Bruno
at the beginning of September 2006, "We notified them that it looks like the bottom line will not hold.
"And I think that pretty much goes for the entire staff here," said Bruno
was not sure exactly what will happen at Friday's meeting, or even whether she'll be presenting her
usual report on the festival."We haven't had any communication from them."Bruno
doesn't like to think about the potential of the Mateel
closing its doors for lack of funds.
is quiet for a long time thinking."I think unity still exists," she
began, then Mattila interjected saying, "My basic feeling is that somebody from out of our community came in here, had a board that didn't know what they were supposed to do, came in like gangbusters saying People Productions
had to be brought under control.She
convinced them they would be audited and lose their homes if they didn't do what she
told them they needed to do.That's certainly not our style.The whole board is convinced that we're not doing it the right way and that their director knows how it should be done."
"And," said Bruno
, "they feel no need to communicate with us.It's been a history of obstructionism, of bad communication, of one drama after another."
"Unity requires respect," says Bruno
."They don't trust us."
If the Mateel
and People Productions
can't come to agreement to work together, what happens to Reggae?"I don't know what the Mateel's
plans are," said Bruno
Could the Mateel
put on Reggae
and People Productions?No one really wants it to come to that, but, said Mateel board member Stern, "I can't believe they're the only company in the world that can do it.They do have a lot of support in the community.A lot of people love Carol Bruno
and P.B. and all the things that have been done over the years.The Mateel
would find itself in a difficult place if that relationship would just end.That doesn't mean we haven't discussed what might happen if they no longer would produce [the festival].
has never done anything to try and terminate the contract.The Mateel
doesn't have a plan to terminate the contract.The only suggestions of a termination of the contract have come from Carol Bruno
Is Stapp considering resigning?She
laughs at the question and says no. "If the entire community says, 'Taunya we want you to go,' I'll say bye.
...A couple of alternatives to the current situation have been offered: licensing the Reggae on the River name to Bruno, or selling it to her outright.Bruno
said she'd consider either.