Op Ed: Encinitas Chamber of Commerce deserves clean slate

The Encinitas Chamber of Commerce, which has represented the city’s business community for 45 years, has come under fire recently.
As a result, the city has held up funding of the Visitor Center, which is operated by the chamber. This decision has the effect of crippling the chamber making it difficult to pay its bills as many of the Visitor Center’s financial obligations, such as the lease, are under the chamber’s name.
There have been allegations of commingling and even misuse of city funds brought to light by a recent report. I believe the report and trust the honesty of the person who prepared it.
It is extremely important for all of us to remember that the dirty deeds that were done, if any, were done by former CEO Gary Tucker and Marketing Director Mike Andreen, not the current staff. But the withholding of funds punishes only the current administration.
The new CEO, Marshall Weinreb, is trying to move forward in a positive manner while dealing with the mess left by the former regime. He has accomplished much in a very short period of time.
With limited resources, he ran the most successful Oktoberfest in history. He is in discussion with Linda Benson to bring the Women’s World Longboard Championships from Biarritz, France, to Encinitas. Last week, he persuaded Tony Hawk to appear at an event in May, he has formed an alliance with MiraCosta College to help small businesses, and much more.
In my opinion, he has accomplished more positive things for Encinitas in three months than have been accomplished in the last three years.
Andreen is now in the process of starting his own “chamber” focusing on the El Camino Real corridor. He calls it the New Encinitas Chamber of Commerce.
This is an obvious copyright infringement and it is illegal. The ability to confuse is the first test of copyright law violation.
Andreen is using the confusion, an e-mail address associated with the 45 years of chamber existence plus other information he obtained while working for the original chamber to advance his breakaway “chamber.” Many businesses that are joining his new organization believe they are joining the original — and only — Encinitas Chamber. This hurts the original chamber.
He is openly being supported by former Encinitas Chamber CEO Gary Tucker and Encinitas City Councilman Jerome Stocks. This adds to the confusion.
It is interesting to note that Mr. Stocks is the only council member that has not shown up for a single event held by the original chamber since Andreen left.
I recently counted all the pictures of City Council members that appeared in the last 20 issues of Encinitas First, the 45-year-old chamber’s newspaper, while under the editorial leadership of Andreen. The results were: 0 for Maggie Houlihan, 0 for Teresa Barth, 3 for Dan Dalager, 4 for James Bond and a whopping 30 for Jerome Stocks. What’s that say?
Personally, I question the integrity of Mr. Andreen.
Negative stories of Andreen’s actions are rampant, but I won’t mention them here as I don’t have firsthand experience with all of them.
I will say that I had occasion to fire him for lying to me and putting at risk the good name of this newspaper.
Some years ago, while still a columnist for The Coast News, he approached Mossy Nissan and asked to borrow a convertible to chauffeur a dignitary in the Christmas Parade. Mr. Mossy said yes as long as he displayed a sign on the car announcing it was courtesy of Mossy Nissan.
Come Monday morning, I got a call from a very upset Mr. Mossy. He said Mike Andreen lied to him. He was at the parade and saw his donated car sporting a huge sign showing the name, “Mike Andreen” and in the car was Andreen’s daughter.
I called Andreen. He said, “Jim, I don’t know what that guy was smoking, but I definitely had the Mossy sign on the car.” Turns out the city had taken pictures of all the entrants. You guessed it. The picture showed a big, smiling Mike and his daughter with a huge “Mike Andreen” sign, but no Mossy sign on the Mossy car. Needless to say, we never received any Mossy advertising.
My intention here is not to bash, but to educate and warn anyone who might become involved with this supposed new chamber to be careful. It is not a real chamber because it lacks nonprofit status as well as state and national affiliation, and is run by a person of questionable ethics.
The Encinitas City Council was set to meet in closed session Oct. 21 to determine the fate of the funding for the Visitor Center.
I feel strongly that the council should continue the funding. If in the future the chamber and Visitor Center need to be separated, it should be done in an orderly manner.
I also feel the council should bail the chamber out of its current financial situation including funding any legal action necessary to keep Andreen from further harming it.
Let the new chamber leader, CEO Marshall Weinreb, continue making a positive difference in the business community of this great city of ours without being dragged down by past issues.
This whole mess happened on the current council’s watch. Let them clean it up.

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  1. El Camino Biz says:

    Mr. Kydd, I can’t help but notice that you tap dance around the tough questions that were asked.

    Fact #1: you make money by publishing the Encinitas Chamber newsletter and selling its advertising. You have a conflict of interest and need to recuse yourself. Period.

    Fact #2: You know fully well that Andreen originally planned to call his organization Encinitas First (his own copyrighted name), a fact which he publicly announced. In his original announcement, he made it clear it was to be a chamber focused on New Encinitas. There is no ambiguity there, and many of us here feel that the need for such an organization is acute.

    It was only after your newspaper stole the Encinitas First name and published (in your own paper) a fictitious business name using that name, that to avoid confusion Andreen instead opted for the title New Encinitas rather than Encinitas First.

    The fact that you don’t personally use the term “New Encinitas” to refer to this community is really not relevant to anything. Unless you have a business here, your opinion on the subject is not meaningful. Further, the city itself recognizes the area as a distinct community, and has ALWAYS done so.

    Fact #3, You then published, on your front page, an article with a headline that specifically stated that there was a report finding misuse of funds, when in fact the report only included vague accusation and was devoid of evidence. It was not an audit and the person who did the report is now on the Encinitas Chamber board of directors.

    Fact #4, those of us who have been observing this ridiculous series of events have seen clearly how the collusion of your newspaper with the Encinitas Chamber and members of city hall can and will inflict damage on the businesses of any business owners who dare to speak out publicly. Therefore, it is disingenuous for you to suggest that an anonymous posting like this does not deserve to be published in your paper.

    I am not Andreen and I don’t represent him. I am a business owner and an observer of what has been going on.

  2. El Camino Biz says:

    I have to comment on this again, because this is kind of galling:

    Danielle Soule wrote:
    “[The New Encinitas chamber] potentially depletes the strength in membership and resources of the one we have”

    Point #1: Chambers are businesses. Businesses don’t have a right to exist. They must compete and produce a quality product. If both of these organizations produce value to their consumers, they will both survive. My business happens to be a member of both and will continue to be a member of both as long as they both offer value in return. I count at least a dozen competitors in my market. Why should business networking organizations have a free pass on competition?

    If Andreen provides better value (and I’m not claiming that he does) why shouldn’t he survive? If the ECC does not, why should we prop it up? One thing is for sure, Andreen’s operation is 100% self-funded and has wasted zero tax dollars. As long as that is the case, I say, power to him. Can the same be said for the ECC?

    Point #2: The concerns and interests of a surf shop on 101 are quite different from the concerns and interests of a major retailer on El Camino Real. For one thing, a visitor’s center is far more meaningful to downtown Encinitas than to New Encinitas, and watching the chamber fall into that logistical and political abyss that serves no benefit to our businesses has left a bad taste.

    Part of the reason for all the vitriole against Andreen (as opposed to Tucker – different issue)is that the good old boy power brokers don’t want to see the ECR corridor flex its muscles. Better to keep the tail wagging the dog, I guess.

    Point #3: If the Encinitas Chamber is struggling (which it is), it is struggling because its expenses far outweigh its revenues. It’s fair to say that is NOT the fault of the new CEO, so why are expenses so high? Because the chamber must pay horrendous rent for a facility it doesn’t need in order to house a visitor’s center it should not be operating in the first place. Ask yourself this: WHO is responsible for moving the chamber to its current expensive location and getting it entangled in the visitor center mess? Who signed off on the lease?

    Will you be surprised to know that the responsible party is none other than the CURRENT PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD? Shocking, I know, given that we are being led to believe that there has been a thorough housecleaning, when in fact the guy in charge today is the same guy who was in charge before. If I am not mistaken, that fateful decision pre-dated Gary Tucker’s stint as CEO. I know a lot of people were vocally against it.

    So while this paper along with certain community members pursues a vendetta agenda against a private business person like Andreen, it takes focus off of the wolf in the fold. I haven’t seen any evidence yet that Andreen was involved in wrongdoing. What seems fairly obvious is that if he is guilty of something, he’s guilty of stepping on toes and ticking people off, and those people want to exact revenge. Is THAT in the best interest of Encinitas or its businesses? I know that I certainly have no interest in other people’s personal vendettas.

    I will just say that, unlike lible and slander, stepping on toes is not a crime, and if the latter is all Andreen has done, it’s time for grown ups to get over it and move on. I’m tired of seeing our tax dollars and political energy wasted on personal vendettas. Let the courts sort that out, and let the free marktet decide if Encinitas can support 5 business organizations, or only 4.

  3. jim kydd says:

    To el camino biz – for the record
    On Point # 1 – I completely agree. But remember, it was Andreen who was at the original Chamber for years when all the problems occurred.
    On the question of two Chambers: There would be no problem at all, if Andreen called his organization something less confusing. Would you like a competitor using a name you spent 45 years building up that was so close to your as to cause massive confusion?
    #2 Interests are different, but that doesn’t prevent one organization covering both effectively. If these interests have been ignored in the past, it was Andreen and Tucker who did the ignoring.
    #3 I saw a copy of the visitor center/chamber lease. It had Gary Tuckers signature on it.
    #1 As to the fact I make money publishing the Chamber newsletter, It’s not true. It is a financial loser. Are you interested in publishing it? Let’s talk.
    Also I didn’t steal any name. Copyright law gives the credit for the entity that uses the name first whether it is registered or not. I do not own the name Encinitas First. The Encinitas Chamber of Commerce does because it paid for, and used the name for years. Doesn’t even matter if Andreen came up with the name in a brain storming session. That’s why he couldn’t (probably on advice of council) use the name Encinitas First for his new business organization. It was a more blatant violation of copyright law than New Encinitas Chamber is, given all the letters of both names would have been identical.

  4. el camino biz says:

    Mr. Kydd,

    Thank you for the response. I’d like to think you’re an honest man who inadvertantly got himself sucked into this seedy mess. But I need to respond to some of your statements.

    “But remember, it was Andreen who was at the original Chamber for years when all the problems occurred.”

    But correlation should not be confused with causation. I’ve been looking at the public info, but have yet to see any evidence that he was responsible for the problems. Lots of people went through the Chamber. There were many board members. If I’m not mistaken, the president of the Chamber back then is still the president now. Why are HIS feet not held to the fire, as opposed to an independent contractor?

    “On the question of two Chambers: There would be no problem at all, if Andreen called his organization something less confusing.”

    Perhaps, but again as you know, Andreen had been planning on a different name until he was threatened by the ECC not to use it, and your newspaper absconded with the name.

    More importantly, how hard would it have been for the ECC to communicate to Andreen that they would cease to attack and smear him if only he would change the name to something else? In all the ECC pronouncements, I haven’t seen them claim that they made any effort to make such a request. It was just attack, attack, attack, from Day One.

    Should he change the name? Probably, if for no other reason than to prove whether or not the name is the real agenda, or just an excuse.

    “I saw a copy of the visitor center/chamber lease. It had Gary Tuckers signature on it.”

    I have heard otherwise, but as I don’t have first hand knowledge, I’d suggest the courts can sort that out.

    “As to the fact I make money publishing the Chamber newsletter, It’s not true. It is a financial loser. Are you interested in publishing it? Let’s talk.”

    That’s an interesting rhetorical flourish for debate purposes, but I think we can safely conclude that TCN would not engage in such an activity for altruistic reasons. If you didn’t think you could make money from it, you wouldn’t be doing it. I imagine this is another issue where the courts could determine the truth.

    “Also I didn’t steal any name. Copyright law gives the credit for the entity that uses the name first whether it is registered or not. I do not own the name Encinitas First. The Encinitas Chamber of Commerce does because it paid for, and used the name for years.”

    Again, let the courts decide. Andreen used the name as his own as an independent contractor. The ECC specifically listed his company in their directory on their web site as Encinitas First. I have seen this with my own eyes and it cannot be denied. Claiming after the fact that they somehow owned the name seems extremely weak to me.

    Fact: if the new CEO and those who hired him had approached all of this in a different way, there would be no problem today. This whole thing has been extremely political and extremely unprofessional among all involved.

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