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Not so influential

Posted: September 24, 2008 8:17 p.m.
Updated: November 26, 2008 5:00 a.m.

The purpose of this letter is to address false and misleading statements made in the August Signal Special Supplement Sa+nta Clarita's 51 Most Influential 2008.

Two of the newly listed individuals, Paul de la Cerda (rated 20th) and Dora Zavala (rated 49th), both claim among their achievements to have co-founded the Hispanic Business Committee of the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce. These statements are false.

After months of research and deliberation, I proposed the idea for this committee to the SCV Chamber early November 2003. I had never even spoken to Mr. De la Cerda or Ms. Zavala, nor were they involved.

Working with the chamber, I set up and presided at the first meeting in January 2004, and all subsequent meetings through November 2004. I devoted many volunteer hours to bring this committee to fruition and, along with many others, worked tirelessly to see it thrive.

I was elected by majority vote and the first chairperson to have served. I was the driving force and founder of this committee with the help, encouragement and participation of others, but not Paul de la Cerda or Dora Zavala.

My first contact ever with Mr. de La Cerda was at the Hispanic Business Committee's first mixer on April 1, 2004. He first attended a committee meeting on April 15, 2004, months after the committee was formed and I had already been elected as chair.

He did not hold an exploratory meeting, as the story states, and was not involved in the formation of the committee. He did not co-found the Hispanic Business Committee.

The story incorrectly states Dora Zavala also co-founded and co-chaired the committee from its inception. Dora began attending meetings sporadically months after the committee was already established, I had already been elected chair, and only after I lobbied her persistently at all chamber events to join our committee.

She did not co-found the Hispanic Business Committee, nor was she chairwoman from its inception. Dora was installed by Larry Mankin, not elected, as chairwoman, 11 months after I founded the Hispanic Business Committee.

I am still alive, still in Santa Clarita, still Hispanic, still a Signal subscriber, still a cheerleader for Santa Clarita but no longer for the SCV Chamber of Commerce, and I still keep detailed written records, and am still unwilling to let falsehoods go unchallenged.

Congratulations to all those nominees whose listed accomplishments are truly their own.

Berta Gonzalez-Harper
Santa Clarita

Editor's note: Chamber President and CEO Larry Mankin confirms that Golzalez-Harper "did a great job" founding the Hispanic Business Committee of the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce, adding that there's plenty credit to go around.


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