In the midst of Promote La Jolla’s ongoing financial crisis, four more board members quit last week, and there’s a possibility of a couple others following suit.
Last week, Reza Ghasemi of Wall Street Rugs, Peter Wagener of PEP Management which owns Hotel Parisi, Errol Lurie of Go La Jolla and Bill Berkley of Jack’s, which closed its doors recently, submitted letters of resignation to President Rick Wildman.
At the group’s July meeting, the board learned that restaurateur George Hauer and Brian Miller of Geppetto’s toys had cut ties with the business improvement district.
“Why they’re resigning is best known to them,” Wildman said Friday. “Some of them, like Lurie, have been on the board six years. Being on the board is real time-consuming work.”
Wildman said the group’s bylaws call for it to have a quorum of 50 percent plus one of its directors present.
“Now it will be five of nine when before it was eight of 15,” he said. “The bylaws only require us to have one director.”
Deborah Marengo, immediate past president of PLJ, said lack of leadership on the board is to blame for the current exodus.
“It’s the constant negative articles that he (Wildman) continues to write,” she said. “Nobody wants to sit at a table with him and they are resigning because of that.”
Marengo added she was undecided as to whether she would remain a PLJ director.
Last week, in his regular president’s column on the Light’s editorial pages, Wildman detailed how he thought the group got into the situation which led the city auditor’s office to issue a report saying the group had double-billed and misused city funds. The auditor called for the group to repay $112,070 and referred the matter to the city attorney, who has yet to issue any conclusions.
PLJ director Terry Underwood, general manager of The Grande Colonial Hotel, said he doesn’t intend on resigning from the board.
“I’m expecting to fulfill my commitment,” he said. His term expires at the end of this year.
Underwood added it’s a very uncertain time, both financially and philosophically for the group, which will likely take time to sort through.
“There’s an awful lot of dust getting kicked up right now,” he said. “Who knows where the dust will settle in terms of sorting this thing out. My hope would be that the gnits and gnats will get sorted out over the next couple months.”
Jennifer Clark, PLJ’s vice president, said there’s a growing sense of frustration among PLJ directors as divisions in the group grow deeper and more personal.
“It’s just gotten to where it’s finger-pointing and accusations and smoke screens, you name it,” she said. “It’s getting in the way of doing what we should be doing for the good of the community. This is a total conundrum. None of us who ran for the board wanted or desired this. It’s just constant bad news, and it’s not any of our doing.”
Wildman said PLJ has an election committee working on recommending replacement directors for those who have left. He said information on possible replacements was to be discussed at PLJ’s Aug. 12 meeting.
PLJ’s ultimate fate may well rest with the city of San Diego, said Wildman. “What happens in the future is really subject to whether people are able to fix the financial crisis that we inherited,” he said, “and whether the city will renew our contract for the business improvement district. Right now, we’re just another nonprofit corporation, and we have no contract with the city.”