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Paul Bonell loses position at Boys and Girls Club

Board's decision comes after medical marijuana consulting job revealed

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Posted: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 12:00 am

Lodi Boys and Girls Club president Paul Bonell is no longer employed by the club.

The club's board of directors has held several meetings to discuss recent news that Bonell did consulting work for a medical marijuana clinic in Stockton before coming to the club a year ago.

Marc Bregman, chairman of the board, announced at a fundraiser Saturday night that long-time club manager Eddie Cotton has been named interim executive director.

Bregman declined to give details of Bonell's departure, but it was later revealed that the board chose not to renew his contract. After one year with the club, Bonell's contract was up for review as of Dec. 31, 2012, but had not been approved by the board by the time this issue came up.

"We want to respect Paul's privacy," he said on Saturday. He did not offer further comment on Tuesday.

Cotton's interim status will be reviewed in 90 days, said Bregman.

The Boys and Girls Club board of directors got wind of the issue when Bonell was mentioned in a New York Times story published in early January regarding federal action against the marijuana operation. That operation included medical marijuana dispensaries and a warehouse where more than 2,000 plants were cultivated.

The Times article focused on Matt Davies of Stockton. Davies is currently facing federal charges for cultivating marijuana, after federal authorities raided two dispensaries and a warehouse filled with marijuana plants in Stockton in July 2012. Davies is challenging the charges on the basis that he ran a medical marijuana dispensary in line with California regulations. Bonell is not facing charges in the investigation.

Bonell maintains that his work with Davies' business was simply a consulting job, one of five or six he completed between 2008 and 2011, when he was hired by the club.

None of them amounted to permanent employment, so Bonell referred to them as "miscellaneous consulting" during the hiring process at the Boys and Girls Club.

"That particular job wasn't that different from the other jobs I had done. It was all state compliance work, whether it was for restaurants or government agencies," he said.

In fact, when Bonell first submitted his resume to the Boys and Girls Club in February 2011, he hadn't yet done any work for Davies. The consulting jobs took place in August 2011, and Bonell was hired in Lodi in November of that year.

"I focused on my 21 years with Premier Credit Union, to emphasize my ties to the community," he said.

Both Bonell and Davies were operating under the understanding that as long as the operation was legal by California state standards, the federal government would not step in.

If Bonell had known that the federal government would continue to raid operations that were legal by state standards, he says he would have advised Davies not to get involved.

"(Matt's) only conversations with me were (about) the need to be in full compliance with state law, and to get this beyond a reasonable doubt," said Bonell.

When Davies' Stockton warehouse was raided and reporters contacted Bonell, he said he felt that standing up for Davies was the right thing to do. But he knew there could be repercussions.

"Sometimes you do the right thing, even if it's painful. In the long term, it will always be the right thing to do," he said. "It goes back to the whole issue of medical marijuana. The word 'marijuana' is a buzzword, and people lose the word that precedes it. Is it a cutting edge or new industry? Well, yeah. Should I be just as concerned if I am a consultant for an alcohol distributor?"

Bonell was taken aback by the board's decision. He anticipated a talking-to from his bosses and a request to disclose any other part-time employment. Instead, he lost his job.

"I was disappointed in the board's decision, but I definitely respect it," he said. "I don't think I've finished the work I started here."

Today, Bonell is cleaning up his resume and preparing to send applications to other nonprofit organizations in Northern California. There is now a space reserved on Bonell's resume to list miscellaneous consulting jobs, to avoid this conversation with future employers.

"I've enjoyed nonprofit work. It's not an industry that is going to make you rich, but as you've seen, you can become famous for it," he said.

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