HOLTVILLE — Even as preparations accelerate for its annual Carrot Festival in February, the Holtville Chamber of Commerce began operating at reduced weekly hours the week of Nov. 16 because it owes its chief executive officer back pay.
The executive, Anita Martinez, confirmed on Nov. 27 it
was owing to a budget issue that the chamber will operate 24 hours per week–
Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, rather than the standard 40 hours from
Monday through Friday.
This resulted from the chamber board on Nov. 14 approving
the action 9-0 with one abstention, Ross
Daniels. The action was necessary to correct an error in the way payroll
calculated the compensation for Martinez the prior two years.
“It wasn’t done with malice. They (board) were just
unaware there was a miscalculation,” she said. “They had to pay me
retroactively and they agreed to a settlement. But we’re still in negotiation
so I can only disclose certain aspects.”
Information on how the error was discovered and how much
Martinez is owed was not released.
Compensation Error Found
Working as chief executive officer since the end of
summer 2017, Martinez had requested a raise at the beginning of the summer of
2019. She was granted a salary increase based on the rate she received at the
time of her hiring. But in checking the figures the board discovered since
Martinez was working a salaried position she had been paid at the incorrect
Martinez at the time of her hire was qualified to receive
twice the minimum wage of California, which was then $11 an hour.
The board was not aware of the inaccurate accounting of
her previous compensation until its Nov. 14 meeting, Martinez said, adding she
was then informed of it and the change took effect on Nov. 16.
In negotiating a settlement the board decided in order to
function it needed to reduce operations, Martinez explained.
“Part of balancing (budget) negotiations was to
change me from salaried to hourly pay,” said Martinez. “Instead of
being paid every 15 days I will get paid by an hourly rate.”
Carrot Festival Looms
Joseph Dhalliwal, chamber vice president, has been in
communication with Martinez by email regarding the issue, he said in a phone
interview Nov. 27. He explained he would not be able to go into details of the
“Right now we’re gearing up for the Carrot Festival,
the biggest event the chamber hosts,” he said. “We do not ordinarily
discuss personnel issues. And we’re approaching full throttle with the festival,
our super-big event and that has to remain our focus.”
The city of Holtville does support the chamber with
contributions, explained Nick Wells, city manager. In a brief phone interview
Nov. 27 Wells confirmed the city provides the chamber’s office, a small
building in the southeast corner of Holt Park, rent free. In addition, the city
pays the building utilities.
“We also help out with (city) personnel during
events such as the Carrot Festival,” he said. “We help block (close
streets to auto traffic) and we help with post-event clean up.”
“I don’t know how long the board would like to
incorporate these hours, especially with all these events coming up” said
Martinez. “But they are uncertain, so we’ll have to take it
month-by-month. We’ll see how it goes.”