• The Mateel Community Center was hit with a California Attorney General’s Office order to suspend operations because of unaudited financial statements but was told this week that operations can continue through May 7 while the final audit is prepared and submitted. - The Mateel Community Center — Contributed

  • The Mateel Community Center will continue to offer shows and services after the state Attorney General’s Office granted a request to continue operating despite an ordered closure. - The Mateel Community Center — Contributed

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Just as things started looking up for the Mateel Community Center — following years of increased expenditures, the Mateel just last month announced a partnership with High Times to put on this year’s reggae festival — the California Attorney General’s Office registry and charitable trusts division hit the center with an order to suspend operations due to unaudited financial statements.

But according to a Mateel press release on Tuesday, the AG’s office approved the Mateel’s request to continue operations while the final audit that needs to be submitted is prepared.

“Based on your representations, the Mateel Community Center, Inc., is authorized to continue its normal business and charitable operations through May 7, 2018,” a letter dated April 9, sent to the Mateel and signed by Deputy Attorney General Joseph Zimring said. “Its registration status will remain suspended until it has resolved the outstanding issues, including completion of the audit of financial statements.”

According to a Mateel news release sent April 6, until “relatively recently” the Mateel didn’t know it was required to have its financial statements audited every year its gross revenue exceeded $2 million. Income before expenditures went over $2 million in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, the release states.

“It’s just because Reggae is such a behemoth, it pushed our organization beyond the $2 million mark since 2014,” Mateel board president Garth Epling said Wednesday.

The audits for 2014 and 2015 had already been submitted before the suspension of operations was ordered, he said.

“The auditors have our books. Each audit costs over $10,000, so that’s not an easy hurdle,” Epling said. “… We’ll get it done.”

Last month, he said, the Mateel’s debt load remained at more than $713,000.

“We certainly could have used that $10,000 to pay off our creditors or funding Summer Arts and Music,” Epling said.

He said the Mateel was informed of the need to submit the audits in 2016 and delays in obtaining and paying an auditor have prolonged the process.

“We were getting extensions that whole time to allow us to operate,” Epling said.

Southern Humboldt Business and Visitor Bureau founding boardmember and operations director Laura Lasseter expressed relief when she heard the Mateel’s request to continue operating was granted.

“The Mateel Community Center is a destination draw for our Southern Humboldt County not only for visitors but locals as well,” she said.

“It’s a kind of hub for our community,” she added.

Lasseter said the community center benefits businesses and contributes to the Southern Humboldt culture.

“We appreciate all the Mateel brings to the community in a lot of different ways,” she said.

Hunter Cresswell can be reached at 707-441-0506.

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