HOLTVILLE — Amid the recent departure of its chief executive officer and unsubstantiated rumors about spending improprieties, the Holtville Chamber of Commerce faces staging its biggest event of the year, the Carrot Festival from Jan. 31-Feb. 9.
However, one chamber board director maintained the organization is up to the challenge and turned away allegations of financial malfeasance this newspaper has not been able to independently confirm.
When asked if the recent departure of CEO Anita Martinez would slow Carrot Festival preparation, Erick Burnworth noted in a Dec. 16 email the chamber is well prepared.
“We are coming together as a community,” he stated. “We have previous volunteers to new volunteers, also ourselves, as a solid board, to keep the event rolling smoothly.”
Asked about the financial allegations, he stressed, “There has been no improper spending. The board reviews the budget and the spending carefully during the chamber’s board meetings.”
Another board member contacted declined to speak on the record.
Meanwhile, Martinez said she is approaching final negotiations on a settlement regarding her December departure. Recently, the chamber board determined she is owed back pay due to an error in her compensation.
The main reason for resigning her position, however, is a new job, Martinez said.
“I couldn’t pass it up. It’s my dream job,” she said. “I’m overseeing the Imperial County 4H program.”
Martinez explained she is on track to start working at the University of California Cooperative Extension at 1050 East Holton Road near Holtville. It performs agronomy research and among its other functions oversees local 4H programs.
However, there is a possibility she would have time to help with some Carrot Festival matters, she added.
“Basically, I want the community to know I always have the residents’ and the businesses’ best interests at heart,” said Martinez in a brief phone interview Dec. 12.
Besides planning a week full of Carrot Festival activities that include a banquet, parade and street fair, the chamber is also in the process of selecting its festival royalty court.
In the wake of Martinez’s departure, the chamber office at 101 W. Fifth St. has one staff member who keeps the office open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays while being closed from noon-1 p.m. for lunch.
This story is featured in the Dec 19, 2019 e-Edition.