BARSTOW After meeting with a labor board official Tuesday, Desert Manna Ministries' executive director says the labor dispute between the shelter and its staff is being resolved and the organization's payroll is current.

But following the labor board meeting, Desert Manna's Board of Directors ousted its board president, Maureen Bates, and Executive Director Sheri Randolph fired Robert Hernandez as the shelter's thrift store manager.

Bates said when she attended Tuesday's meeting of the Desert Manna board, the board voted to set aside the agenda to remove her as president. The motion passed with three members voting yes and one abstaining. Board members Charles Ayers, Barbara Padilla and Father Erik Esparza voted in favor of ousting Bates. Board member Jon Prince, an account specialist with the Desert Dispatch, said he abstained.

Bates said she obtained the advice of a lawyer through JustAnswer.com who stated the board's action was illegal. She is currently in the process of filing a lawsuit.

Bates became board president about four or five months ago, she said.

"I was the only one who tried to work with the city," Bates said, referring to a cease and desist order city staff sent Desert Manna in July due to the number of staff living at the shelter. "I didn't want them to shut us down. I wanted us to make changes."

Hernandez said Randolph fired him during the board meeting, and he may file a complaint with the labor board because he is owed back pay. He had worked as the shelter's thrift store manager since it opened earlier in March. He had lived at the shelter for about a year. Now he's living in a hotel.

Tuesday's meeting was conducted in accordance with the shelter's bylaws, Randolph said. According to Desert Manna's bylaws, the board by a majority vote can remove any officer with or without cause at any time. Randolph had no further comment on the matter except to say that Bates did not attend Tuesday's labor board meeting.

Randolph confirmed that she fired Hernandez during Tuesday's Desert Manna board meeting. He did a good job with the thrift store, she said, but wouldn't comment as to why he was let go.

"We don't want to get into a he-said, she-said thing," Randolph said. "We appreciate everyone who helps out Desert Manna in whatever capacity."

Ayers and Padilla wouldn't comment on the board's decision to oust Bates. Padilla did say, however, that Bates was not outed because of any illegal activity on her part. Esparza could not be reached.

The labor board commissioner Tuesday addressed the claims of two Desert Manna staff members who had said they hadn't been paid their full salary since July. Now, instead of being paid a stipend and working 40 hours a week, most of the shelter's staff will work 20 hours a week and be paid $8 an hour.

Shelter staff will continue to live at the shelter. Randolph said she and the board is still in the process of updating the shelter's occupancy agreement with the city. Fourteen out of 17 employees live at the shelter, each occupying one of its 32 beds.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4123 or jcejnar@desertdispatch.com