MCSD director accussed of bullying

Jack Durham
Mad River Union

McKINLEYVLLE – A member of the McKinleyville Community Services District Board of Directors was called a bully at last week’s meeting and was told to get anger management training.

Dennis Mayo

Dennis Mayo

The criticism of Director Dennis Mayo was made by McKinleyville resident Pat Higgins, who is the Fifth District representative on the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District.

Higgins spoke during the public comment section of the July 6 meeting, chastising Mayo for comments he made at the June 1 meeting about Johnny Calkins, who has volunteered to serve on the district’s Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee. The committee has three openings, and, as of early last week, Calkins is the only resident to volunteer to serve.

The background

An appointment to the advisory committee would normally be a routine matter. But at the June 1 meeting, Mayo asked to delay the appointment of Calkins because of what he deemed disrespectful behavior relating to an incident that occurred more than two years ago when elected officials, including Mayo, were asked to leave a meeting of a group called the McKinleyville Organizing Committee (MOC).

The organization, led by what is now called True North, partnered with local churches to get community members together to organize and rally in support of projects. The organizing committee followed the principles of the People Improving Communities through Organizing (PICO). The PICO principles prohibit elected officials from participating in certain organizing meetings, which are intended for regular citizens who don’t already have power. Elected officials, however, may be invited to provide information or listen to MOC members.

After Mayo and the other elected officials were told to leave the meeting, the MOC followed up by sending the board members letters explaining why they couldn’t be at the organizing meetings.

The incident resulted in some heated exchanges that witnesses are loath to publicly discuss.

“It wasn’t well received,” Calkins said in an interview last month.

Mayo said at the June 1 services district meeting that he and other were disrespected by the MOC.

“It’s been a very disrespectful and painful episode on our community,” Mayo said on June 1. “It has divided a lot of us. It has made us upset and has pushed people apart. There was no reason for that.”

Mayo said he is concerned about having “that attitude” on the advisory committee. “That’s not acceptable,” he said.

‘Tactics of fear and intimidation’

At last week’s board meeting, Higgins referred to the incident with Calkins, as well as some other heated exchanges that have occurred during harbor district, and harbor district-related, meetings.

Pat Higgins

Pat Higgins

“The open hostility exhibited by Dennis, however, to John after the MOC meetings is completely unbecoming of an elected official,” Higgins told the MCSD board last week.

“His disruption and hostile behavior and open aggression at harbor district meetings and recent challenge of Commissioner Marks to a fight at a Planning Commission meeting show a pattern of bullying,” Higgins said.

During a meeting of the Humboldt County Planning Commission on April 21, Mayo got in a heated exchange with harbor district Commissioner Richard Marks and reportedly asked him to “step outside,” according to an article by Ryan Burns that was posted on the Lost Coast Outpost the following day.

In the article, Marks claims that Mayo challenged him to a fight. “We were face-to-face,” Marks is quoted as saying.

Mayo, however, told the Lost Coast Outpost that he just wanted to step outside to further discuss the issue before the commission.

“In the hallway I said, ‘Let’s go outside and talk about it,’” Mayo is quoted as saying. “You know how I am; I just tell you what the fuck I’m thinking.”

Higgins told the McKinleyville district board that the behavior is unacceptable.

“Using tactics of fear and intimidation have no place in a democracy,” Higgins said. “It’s not a comfortable thing to be here ... to make this proclamation, but I live in this community and  I find bullying behavior oppressive.”

“Dennis has a pattern and his friends say ‘Dennis will be Dennis’,” Higgins added.

Higgins said he wanted his criticisms of Mayo to be constructive, and recommended that the director seek anger management training.

Mayo sat quietly during Higgins’ take down and did not respond. The Union sent two emails to Mayo and left a message on his answering machine, but did not get a response before going to press.

The appointment of Calkins is scheduled to be considered at the Aug. 3 meeting .

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