The Eastern Sierra Hatchery Foundation (formerly the Hot Creek Hatchery Foundation) was disbanded by a 7-2 vote of its Board of Directors last month.
According to a press release issued late Wednesday, since 2005, the Foundation has collected and then distributed some $300,000 to provide the Hatchery with food, fuel and equipment to subsidize its operations.
A phone interview Thursday with former Board President Mike Seefeldt indicated that polarization and conflict within the Hatchery Board contributed to the Foundation’s demise.
Seefeldt attributed this to a difference of opinion in regard to how the Foundation could function.
Seefeldt narrowly interprets the 501(c)3 (federal designation for tax exempt charitable organizations) the ESHF was operating under. He feels the Foundation was designed specifically to support the Hot Creek Hatchery. He acknowledged that helping neighboring hatcheries could have fallen under the 501(c)3 once the New Zealand Mud Snail was found at Hot Creek. The Mud Snail’s presence has restricted where Hot Creek’s fish can be stocked.
Seefeldt said others (specifically Gaye Mueller, a former Board member whose letter on this topic appears on page 4-5) may have had a broader interpretation of what the Board could and could not do.
“People had a lot of great ideas, but the foundation wasn’t set up to [pursue] them,” he said.
Seefeldt, a former manager of the Hot Creek Fish Hatchery who recently retired from the DFG after 35 years of employment, also vaguely referred to the political agendas of some other Board members, and said political activity is forbidden by the 501(c)3.
By political activity, Seefeldt may have been referring to a Board meeting (which Seefeldt dfd not attend) held at the Fish Springs Fish Hattchery.
At that meeting, Board Member Mike McKenna said two current DFG employees asked the Board to turn off the tape recorder during the meeting.
These state employees then asked Board members why they were wasting their time, because it was the opinion of these employees that the hatchery system was “circling the drain” and doomed to failure.
They then asked the Board what they would do if the DFG suddenly closed down all the hatcheries.
The Board uniformly replied that it would do anything in its power to keep the hatcheries operating (the apparent political position of the Hatchery Board).
“Then we went back on the record,” said McKenna.
Soon thereafter, according to McKenna, some e-mails circulated in which Seefeldt reprimanded his fellow Board members for overstepping their bounds. McKenna didn’t understand what exactly he meant.
Then the bookkeeper (McKenna’s wife) was fired.
When asked about the three Board members who resigned just prior to the dissolution vote, Seefeldt would not comment as to why he thought they resigned.
These members were Kevin Peterson, Lane Garrett and Dr. Tom Jenkins.
In regard to the Mueller letter, Seefeldt said The Sheet should “take a lot of it with a grain of salt.”
Stay tuned for further coverage next week.