Trails End Tenants’ Attorney Shines Light on Criminal Past of Harmony Communities CEO
A day after Fresno County Superior Court Judge Kristi Culver Kapetan approved the sale of Fresno’s troubled Trails End Mobile Home Park to Harmony Communities for $1.7 million, the attorney representing residents there questioned the sale in light of the criminal history of the company’s top executive.
California Rural Legal Assistance attorney Mariah Thompson tweeted Wednesday about Harmony Communities CEO Matt Davies’ federal conviction on marijuana charges in 2013 and his assault conviction in 2019.
Davies received a five-year prison sentence in the marijuana case, which received national attention. His other conviction came after he assaulted a man with a bottle while wearing a Pennywise clown mask on Halloween night in Stockton.
Davies said he was saddened to see stories about his past resurface and accused Thompson of “slinging mud to impugn my character.” Davies also said that he sat down with city officials and told them about the convictions.
“I am saddened that, after Mariah’s loss in court yesterday, she has resorted to slinging mud to impugn my character. It is a low blow that has nothing to do with Trails End,” Davies said in an email statement to GV Wire.
“This behavior serves only to sow further division, unfairly impacting the company where I work and the 100+ employees whose livelihoods depend on it. With regard to my past, I am proud of the work I did in the medical marijuana field more than a decade ago. This work provided hundreds of jobs in our community, and seeded a foundation for what, today, has become a thriving nationwide industry.
“Now I work in affordable housing and am happy to be part of the team turning Trails End around for the betterment of Fresno. Ultimately I think this is what matters most to the residents and the community at large, so that is where I choose to focus.”
Related Story: Efforts to End Fresno Housing Crisis Underway While Council Sorts Out Plan
Attorney Says She Has Been Threatened by Harmony Owner
When asked why she hadn’t brought Davies’ criminal history to light publicly until after Tuesday’s court hearing, Thompson said she has been threatened by Harmony staff and personally harassed by Davies.
“It is a risk to publicize this information,” said Thompson.
Thompson alleged that the company has filed multiple complaints against her — including seeking a gag order for sharing factual documented evidence about the company’s management practices.
She also stated city officials, along with the receivership group and the court, were aware of Davies’ criminal record.
“I feel sharing this information is important to spotlight how significant it was for the city to refuse to support the residents and what they knew about Harmony when they made that choice,” said Thompson. “The receiver in fact devoted space in his briefings to downplay these crimes and insisted the criminal record was not a problem.”
Mr. Davies was sentenced to another 5 years probation and 424 days incarceration. He spent between November 18, 2019-May 15, 2020 in jail. He was assigned an anger management program & forced to give up his real estate license . He is no longer a licensed real estate agent. 6/8 pic.twitter.com/TJ898Vzjhe
— Mariah Thompson (she/her) (@_mcthompson) May 11, 2022
Davies countered that Thompson’s claims of abuse and harassment against her and the residents are false. Furthermore, Davies stated that his criminal history should have no bearing on his company’s acquisition of the property.
“My job with Harmony is to oversee integrations,” said Davies. “Sherrie Johnston runs operations as she has for 10 years and will be overseeing this property.”
Court Receiver: There Will Be No Rent Hikes
Trails End was in bad shape after two fires in April and June of last year caused the destruction of five homes and the death of 56-year-old Ronald Richardson.
The park was placed in the hands of the California Receivership Group, which was charged with overseeing the clean-up of the property and preparing it for sale to Harmony Communities.
Since then, cleaning crews hired by court-appointed receiver, Mark Adams, have taken down structures, including rooms and ports that were illegally built without permits, much to the displeasure of some park residents.
Within the next four weeks, the park will be brought up to code, said Adams, and Harmony Communities will take over in about two months. Adams also said that there would be no rent increases.
“The city of Fresno has a rent-control ordinance, and so the fear that rents are going to be jacked up out of sight is just fear-mongering,” said Adams.
In a statement to GV Wire, Adams addressed Davies’ criminal record explaining that the information is not new and that everyone has been well aware of his history, including judge Culver-Kapetan.
Furthermore, Adams shared that Harmony’s CEO is Bruce Davies and its COO is Cheryl Johnston – not Matt Davies.
Even though Matt Davies has been peddled as the company’s CEO in several news articles, as of Wednesday afternoon, Matt Davies’ Linkedin page and the company website indicate he is no longer CEO.
“It is time for the mud-slinging to stop and for all of us to be forward-looking in implementing that decision,” said Adams.
“Judge Kapetan was informed by Ms. Thompson of this information before making her ruling, I did not consider it disqualifying in making my recommendation to the Court.”
No Other Group Bid on the Park
Trails End United for Change, a resident-led co-cop, and the nonprofit company, Caritas had expressed interest in purchasing the park. But only Harmony Communities submitted an offer.
Thompson said part of the issue was the previous owners’ unwillingness to share financial information about the park.
“Typically in mobile home acquisitions at least any that I have been involved with, it is traditional for the sellers to share some basic financial information to help evaluate the worth of the property, ” said Thompson.
John Woolley, the chief investment officer of Caritas Corp., was present at the court hearing on Wednesday and said his group couldn’t make an offer without inspecting the park’s financials.
“In our financing world, we would need financial records to get lending from the banks,” said Woolley. “We are not in a position to offer all cash.”
Trails End Residents Vow to Continue Fight
As for the park residents, most of them vehemently opposed the sale to Harmony. When they exited the B. F. Sisk Courthouse on Wednesday, they broke down. Chanting and singing that they would “not be moved,” they vowed to continue fighting the takeover by the company.
“At least from my clients’ perspective, we will be evaluating the next steps in the process. It’s certainly not over irrespective of who owns this park. Every single resident in this park is protected by many different laws,” said Thompson. “As far as we consider it, it’s far from over and we will continue to carry on.”