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Karuk Tribal leadership seeks hostile takeover

By John Goodwin, Guest Opinion Pioneer Press, August 29, 2007

Requesting A Guest Opinion if that is possible

My name is John Goodwin and I am President of the Board of Directors of Happy Camp Health Services (HCHS), a local non profit in Happy Camp with paid membership. I am writing simply as a member and not as President.

HCHS owns the medical clinic building and the property it sits on.

The Karuk Tribe manages the clinic, provides medical services to all in the mid river communities. I'll thank the Karuk Tribe for that.

However, the leadership of the Karuk Tribe, led by Robert Goodwin a local California Highway Patrol officer, is attempting to do what some describe as a "hostile takeover" of HCHS.

The membership of HCHS late last year voted not to give the assets, including the building and property, to the Karuk Tribe. The Tribe had lobbied for transfer but lost in an election where 68% of HCHS membership voted not to transfer title to the Tribe.

The Tribe not long after, in a letter dated November 13, 2006, said it would vacate the medical clinic building at the end of it's lease with HCHS, which would be September 30, 2007. The Tribe will continue, to its credit, to offer medical services to all from a building on the Karuk Tribal compound here in Happy Camp.

The Board of Directors decided to try and talk with Tribal leadership to see if common ground could be found. The Board was told the Tribe will vacate September 30, 2007.

The Board of HCHS could not allow the clinic building to be empty long after that date. A community meeting was help in January of 2007, to seek community input for the future use of the building and property. Then letters were sent out to non profits all the way to Yreka.

A letter, dated April 2, 2007, was sent to the Tribe soliciting ideas for future uses for the clinic building. In that same letter, the Board of HCHS said "Note that the information form asks if you are interested in purchasing the facility. If the Tribe is interested in pursuing this option, the Board is interested in discussing a wide range of alternative courses of action."

That letter was never answered by the Karuk Tribe.

The Tribe had other plans. In a letter dated March 29, 2007, to Tribal Members or Descendants, Tribal leadership offered to pay for membership in HCHS for Tribal members. The Tribe was trying to load HCHS membership with its Tribal members.

The Board of HCHS has since late last year worked long hours with many meetings to find the best renter for the clinic building. The Board to this day continues to do so. In a Karuk Tribe letter, dated July 3, 2007, Chairman Super of the Tribe said "The Karuk Tribe of California("KTOC") and undersigned members of Happy Camp Health Services("HCHS") hereby request a special meeting of HCHS be called, pursuant to Article 13, Section 3 of the HCHS Bylaws." The undersigned members were all new members, members or employees of the Tribe with their memberships all paid for by the Tribe.

Those undersigned members all had standing to call for a special meeting.

The Tribe did not. To this day, I still do not understand how anyone from an organization can call a meeting of a completely different organization. I am going to call a meeting of the Karuk Tribe. How far do you think I will get????

The purpose of the special meeting was to remove the current Board of Directors and replace them with a Board made up of entirely of Tribal members or employees.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see what leadership of the Tribe was up to. The Tribe did not get what it wanted when it lost the election in late 2006, so it apparently decided it would simply take the assets of HCHS.

The Board of HCHS invited the twenty members, all Tribal members or employees, who called for the special meeting to a Board meeting of HCHS. The Board wanted to know why a special meeting was called. No cause or reason had ever been listed for the removal of the current Board.

Only 5 of the 20 signers showed up.

One signer said she signed "to raise alittle dust". Another said she "did not know why she signed". The long arm of intimidation of the Karuk Tribe leadership, listed in articles in the Pioneer Press the past two weeks, does have a long wing span.

The leadership of the Tribe has made public that since the Tribe has paid rent for over five years and maintained the building for five years- which the signed lease says it is required to do- that is payment for the building so the building is theirs. I better sell my condo in the Bay area before my renter decides the same thing! I can hear it know, I paid rent for 8 years and helped maintain the condo, the condo is now mine.

The Karuk Tribe continues to try and run HCHS business so court action has been sought. HCHS does not have the money for this, but it has been forced down that road.

The problem is not with the Karuk Tribe but with Tribal leadership I believe is out of touch with the majority of its members. Many are appalled at the actions in this matter by Tribal leadership, Karuk members and non tribe members alike.

This matter is tearing this community apart, and the community is already badly divided. HCHS has done everything it can to prevent that from happening, but we could have rolled over and played dead or fought back. HCHS had no choice but to fight back.
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