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September 22, 2020

Chamber board members ousted over social media comments

Former member calls removal a ‘witch hunt’ in Facebook post

The Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors removed two of its members Aug. 31 because they had made “inappropriate and disrespectful” comments on social media, according to the chamber’s CEO and chair of the board.

A statement signed by chamber CEO Brittney Sherman and Board Chair Rich Firato said the board voted the two unnamed members out of the organization “as a result of inappropriate and disrespectful posts and commentary on social media that was deemed to be of a sexist nature.”

In a follow-up email, Sherman said the chamber is not publicly naming the two ousted board members “out of respect for the time and dedication that the two board members have shown the (chamber) over the past few years.”

The chamber’s statement also did not specify what the questionable social media content that resulted in the two members’ removal consisted of.

One of the ousted board members, Sunday Minnich, posted on a Facebook group Sept. 1 that she was one of the two removed from the chambers’ board. In the Facebook post, Minnich said she posted a “derogatory” and “sexist” comment about vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris on her personal Facebook page “as a joke.” The other board member who was removed had commented on Minnich’s post, Minnich posted Sept. 1. 

Minnich—who is the executive director of the Morgan Hill Mushroom Mardi Gras—added that another chamber board member was offended and “went behind my back” and notified the full board, says her Sept. 1 post on the “Morgan Hill Neighborhood Watch” Facebook page. 

“I deleted the post way before this was brought up at the chamber because I realized it wasn’t very nice,” Minnich wrote in the Sept. 1 post. She wrote that the board asked her to resign, but she refused. She was given a brief chance to plead her case and apologized, but the board ultimately voted to remove her. 

Minnich’s Sept. 1 post added that someone “leaked” the issue outside the chamber, and a “women’s group threatened to picket the chamber because of my post.” 

“This was a smear campaign and even though the board said this had nothing to do with my political beliefs, I truly believe this was a witch hunt because of my political beliefs,” reads Minnich’s Sept. 1 post. She did not name the other board member who was removed. 

Sherman added that the decision to remove the two members was “based on a majority vote from the Chamber Board of Directors.” She added that the board’s vote was an internal matter, but chamber leadership decided to release a public statement after some members of the public heard about it. 

The chamber’s website, as of Sept. 1, has not updated the list of board members since the board’s Aug. 31 vote. The site lists 17 board members, in addition to Minnich’s name which is still on the list: Firato, Vice Chair Dan Keith, Treasurer Phil Couchee, Secretary Fawn Myers, Tim Herlihy, Ashis Roy, Sunday Minnich, Robert Airoldi, Steve McFarland, Cecelia Ponzini, Lee Neves, John Horner, Heather Geddes, Dusty Perryman, Angelia Guglielmo, Josh Jachimowicz and Armando Garcia.

Minnich, the owner of Minnich Productions, served on the chamber board for five years, according to her Sept. 1 post. 

The chamber’s Aug. 31 statement continues, “While the Chamber celebrates the right to freedom of speech and represents businesses of all political affiliations, we will never condone the use of images and/or words which are harassing, sexist, racist or otherwise dehumanizing of anyone. These are difficult, emotional and tumultuous times which make it even more important that we treat each other with the highest levels of respect and dignity. We commend the Chamber board’s clear decision to take a stand against misconduct and uphold the values of the organization.”

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