Javier Palomarez, the embattled CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce announced his resignation last week. Palomarez has been the subject of an investigation regarding allegations related to finances and sexual harassment. In a statement, Palomarez claimed that he was completely vindicated of those allegations, but nonetheless felt it was time for him to step down. I don’t have any personal insight into the inner workings of the USHCC, but from my vantage point, the chamber’s national profile has improved under his leadership, however it does not seem he was ever able to galvanize the organization at the grass roots level. From what I was able to see through social media, the chamber seemed very focused on corporate and high-level government relationships, but did not post much about their members or the small businesses they represented. Palomarez was sharply criticized by practically everyone for his repeated mishandling of his relationship with Donald Trump. Shortly after Trump announced his candidacy for President where he referred to Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals, Palomarez met with Trump at Trump Tower – and was skewered for it by USHCC members and other Hispanic organizations. Subsequent to that meeting, Palomarez started calling Trump a “clown” on the national media circuit. A year later, the USHCC endorsed a candidate for President for the first time when they endorsed Hillary Clinton – upsetting conservatives who believed that it is appropriate for the USHCC to advocate on policy but not individual candidates. Then, when Trump was elected, Palomarez agreed to join a presidential committee on diversity, again angering members who questioned whether Palomarez or the USHCC actually stood for anything. Palomarez eventually was pressured to resign from the committee shortly after the President ended DACA protection.
The USHCC is a much-needed organization that must better define its value proposition for its constituents. It claims to represent the interests of the four million Hispanic-owned businesses in America, but it’s not clear how they do that and, quite honestly, anyone can make that claim. It would be inappropriate for me to suggest what the USHCC should do moving forward, but I believe the overall business community would benefit from more data about those four million small businesses and a better understanding of their needs and opportunities. I hope the USHCC finds their footing under new leadership, especially as Hispanics become an increasing source of small business and job growth in America.