Los Angeles – We would like to take a moment for the members of CCNMA and NAHJ to better understand the timeline of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between CCNMA and NAHJ. We take issue with how the MOU is being characterized by the current NAHJ leadership as somehow not being thoroughly vetted. The two-year process was detailed, debated, open, transparent and reviewed legally before final agreement was forged.
-CCNMA President Yvette Caberea and newly elected NAHJ President Mekahlo Medina began discussions on a partnership
-An initial draft proposal was sent first the the CCNMA board to consider
-There were open discussions with both memberships on what the partnerships might look like and how each group would benefit
-Many CCNMA directors and members worried about losing the group’s autonomy and identity
-The CCNMA board tabled discussions as it dealt with planned events
- December 2015-January 2016
-NAHJ President Medina re-engaged CCNMA in partnership talks again
-The CCNMA board once again took up the issue, drafting an edited version of the MOU that included the position NAHJ deputy executive director to be headquartered out of the CCNMA Santa Monica office and be under the supervision of the NAHJ executive director, with approval by the CCNMA board. The DED would essentially be the West Coast arm of NAHJ.
-The NAHJ Executive committee reviewed the CCNMA edited MOU and returned it, downgrading the position to administrative manager, a part-time to full time position that would be under the supervision of the NAHJ executive director, with approval by the CCNMA board. The duties would include, but not limited to, staffing the Santa Monica office one to two days a week, assisting CCNMA with office duties, accounting and planning for its two signature events. (Staffing the office was critical because the space was loan to CCNMA by ASU, but required a continuous presence)
-Upon both organizations sharing each others financials for review, each group agreed that any liabilities each organization had prior to the agreement would not be the responsibility of the other organization. (NAHJ has liabilities 10-times greater than that of CCNMA)
-Both organizations would share equal revenue in new sponsorship deals in California and work together to build more programming, development and grow membership.
-CCNMA members in California, outside of San Francisco and San Diego, where two NAHJ chapters were thriving, would become NAHJ members and inverse NAHJ members would become CCNMA members
-The CCNMA board approved those changes and approved the MOU
-The NAHJ board reviewed the edited MOU and at the request of Executive Director Alberto Mendoza and Financial Officer Francisco Cortes decided to include a provision that the administrative manager position would be dependent on how NAHJ finances shaped up at the end of third quarter of 2016.
-Also included was a provision by board member Nathan Olivares-Giles that a 30 day grace period be added as a last resort if one of the organizations wanted to leave the partnership; the provision was meant as a “cooling off” period if one partner has exhausted all approaches to resolve any issues with the other partner
(“Both organizations can opt to leave the agreement at any time after a 30 day period of consideration where both organization attempt to resolve the issues that might be cause of disagreement”)
(Source: NAHJ January 2016 Minutes)
-The edited MOU was approved by the board unanimously and signed by NAHJ President Mekahlo Medina, reviewed by the NAHJ attorney and sent to CCNMA.
-CCNMA board’s attorney reviewed the final MOU, approved by it’s board unanimously and signed it by new CCNMA President Joseph Rodriguez
-The MOU went into effect
-There was a 90 day period that gave NAHJ Los Angeles, the local chapter of NAHJ, time to dissolve into the CCNMA Los Angeles chapter
-Some NAHJ LA board members took up board roles and began to work with CCNMA
-CCNMA President Joseph Rodriguez attended the NAHJ NABJ conference and requested from newly elected President Brandon Benavides that the administrative manager role be funded in the 2017 budget
-NAHJ President Benavides declined to fund the position at the Winter board meeting in Las Vegas
-CCNMA President Joseph Rodriguez informed the CCNMA board of NAHJ’s decision
-Former NAHJ President Mekahlo Medina volunteered to the fill the role in the capacity of interim executive director of CCNMA until the end of 2017 with the hopes that NAHJ would fund the position in 2018
-NAHJ President Brandon Benavides requested that the NAHJ executive committee review the MOU for the 1st time
-Benavides, CCNMA President Joseph Rodriguez, NAHJ Executive Director Alberto Mendoza and Interim Executive Director Mekahlo Medina discusses the details of the MOU via teleconference
-After appearing to be satisfied with the review, Benavides emailed the NAHJ board writing “We had a wonderful conversation. This MOU applies to the LA Chapter. NAHJ is responsible for the LA Chapter account. The MOU is a work in progress.”
-CCNMA NAHJ worked to deliver the largest job fair of the year for NAHJ with more than 325 participants and half a dozen hires
-Initiated discussions for new chapters in Fresno and growing chapters in Sacramento and San Jose
-Struck a new partnership with Hispanicize LA to host the CCNMA Latinas breakfast that benefits the CCNMA scholarship fund set for October of 2017
Corrections and classifications in recent reporting:
NAHJ membership numbers
- 2013: 900 members (approx), under President Balta
- 2014: 1400 members (approx); Up 500 members, under President Balta
- 2015: 1800 members (approx); Up 400 members, under President Medina
- 2016: 2061 members (July 31st prior to NABJ NAHJ convention); Up 261 members, under President Medina
- 2017: 2125 members; Up 64 members, under President Benavides
- It’s unclear why Benavides identified NAHJ’s own legal entanglements and financial problems as it pertains to the CCNMA partnership.
- CCNMA has NO connections to NAHJ’s $13,000 entanglement with the District of Columbia in 2016 or NAHJ’s $100 fine to the state of California for failure to file state taxes when its incorporation was in California as stated by Benavides.
“NAHJ President Brandon Benavides said Thursday that he was unaware of the board’s plan to review the CCNMA contract at its Wednesday meeting. The national organization was exercising its right to postpone a vote on the contract in a “good faith effort,” he said.
“We wanted to make sure we know our liability and what NAHJ is responsible for,” Benavides said.”
- Benavides is the chairman of the board and is responsible for the agenda of the board meeting
- If he was unaware of the board’s plan, he ultimately had to decide to approve the agenda item
- In the process, Benavides made NO attempt at contacting CCNMA President Joseph Rodriguez by phone, email or text; He also made NO attempt to alert CCNMA treasure Rachel Urgana, who was present in the room.
“In an email sent Wednesday, Brandon Benavides, the NAHJ president, said he requested the MOU because board members wanted to review the financial and legal liabilities of the merger. Benavides sent the e-mail to Joseph Rodriguez, the president of CCNMA, and Mekahlo Medina, a former NAHJ president and one of the main architects of the requested MOU.”
- The email was sent three hours after the NAHJ board voted to start the review process
- CCNMA’s President or its interim Executive Director was never made aware of the issue beforehand