GRASSROOTS ACTION: Board Messages Don’t Add Up: Part I

Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner

Note: After reading this post, please see GRASSROOTS ACTION: Board Messages Don’t Add up: Part II here.

Secret HWFC (Board-Authorized) Exec Committee / LT Letter to NYS DOL Made Public: Thanks to the FOIL request of member Julie Harrell, the HWFC board’s 10/26/15 secret, hand-couriered letter to the NYS Department of Labor (DOL) is available for member-owner & public view. The letter was authorized by the HWFC board of director’s, which passed a unanimous motion on 10/20/15 which states:

The Board authorizes the Co-op’s attorneys (Couch White and Dowling Law, PLLC), in consultation with the Leadership Team and the Executive Committee, to interface with the New York State Department of Labor and entities in connection with ending member labor on the floor and administration by January 1, 2016. [1]

This makes explicit that the co-op’s management – its three-person Leadership Team – is working hand-in-hand with the Executive Committee and two law firms, to end member labor at our co-operative.

This 2nd of two motions was passed by 100% of the board (all nine (9) members), after a 2 ½+ hour executive session meeting which was restricted to the following 18 people:

• all nine (9) members of the board
• all three (3) members of the Leadership Team (LT)
• three (3) lawyers representing two (2) different law firms:
o Alexis Clement of Couch White LLP
o John Vero of Couch White LLP
o Joanmarie Dowling of Dowling Law PLLC
• two (2) consultants
o Shem Cohen (Affiliation not listed: ?)
o Josh Poupore (Affiliation not listed: ?)
• one (1) board administrator
o Vicky Saraceni

Member-owners were excluded from this 2 ½+ hour secret executive session. Immediately after executive session ended, two public motions were passed. Member-owners were not consulted prior to the two motions being passed by the HWFC board. [1]

This letter was hand-couriered two days after the board received the 10/24/15 fully-executed, member-owner petition for an emergency Special Membership Meeting! The board declined to provide member-owners with a copy of the letter nor would they discuss its contents.

In order to discover what this letter said, a member of our co-operative, Julie Harrell, took the step of making a written FOIL request (freedom of information law) so that ALL members of our co-operative could read the letter to the NYS DOL authorized by this board, written in co-operation with management (LT), penned by two (2) law firms, and kept secret by them all.

Read the letter for yourself: https://hwfcinfohub.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/fl-15-1107-records-for-release.pdf

…and the FOIL request: https://hwfcinfohub.wordpress.com/2015/11/25/dol-letter-full-text-via-foil/

Top personnel from NY’s labor regulatory agency knew before the member-owners of Honest Weight Food Co-op did, that its board planned to “….transition [HWFC] away from members contributing labor…” !!!

Read the letter and compare it to the board’s 11/19/15 Inside Scoop explanation – sent to Member-Owners – as to why the board withheld the contents of this letter from member-owners for 26 days:

We believed that such public coverage could jeopardize our ability to negotiate with the DOL to protect and preserve the MLP to the extent possible. [emphasis added] [2]

Protect and preserve?

They’re planning to secretly “negotiate” with NYS DOL in order to “protect and preserve?”

The board’s release of this letter to member-owners came attached with its own gag order, or, more correctly, a “gag request:”

Since we are just beginning communication with the DOL, we are asking shareholders to respect the confidential and privileged nature of this letter, and request that it only be shared with other shareholders of Honest Weight Food Co-op. [2]

Member-owners have not been invited to the communications “just beginning” between the NYS DOL, the HWFC board & its attorneys.

Secret 2 ½+ hour meetings with two (2) law firms, one with Washington D.C. offices; secrecy between management & board (to the exclusion of member-owners); bylaws created in secret with Bylaws Task Force members required to sign gag orders; board members required to sign gag orders; a secret letter; a “gag request” to member-owners to keep a secret letter, secret; ongoing communications with NYS DOL with yet more secret meetings planned?

Leadership-by-secrecy prevails with this HWFC board & LT/management.

The first of two motions passed by the board on 10/20/15 states:

Consistent with the Bylaws Task Force recommendation, the Board will end member labor on the floor and administration by January 1, 2016. The Board will make a good faith effort to engage the membership in the process. [1]

Read carefully. “Engag[ing] the membership in the process” appears to refer to the board “helping” us (or not) to transition to a co-op without member labor; the decision to end member labor appears to not be open for discussion.

On 10/26/15, the Governance Review Council (GRC) of our co-op determined at an emergency meeting, through a review of our bylaws and by a unanimous vote, that the board had over-stepped its authority in “end[ing] member labor on the floor and administration by January 1, 2016.” The GRC asked the board to rescind this decision.

At its 11/03/15 meeting, the board rescinded its decision with this motion, passed unanimously:

John moved to rescind the Board’s decision of October 20: “to end member labor on the floor and administration by January 1, 2016.” The board will enact another resolution [emphasis added] that will take into account [emphasis added] input from the GRC and members. [3]

This brand new motion did not, however, actually rescind the old one in its entirety. Read carefully. The board’s motion to “…interface with the New York State Department of Labor and entities [emphasis added]…” [1] was not rescinded by this board.

Slippery behavior.

Member-owner staff, individuals & families need to be aware that this board is continuing with its intention to end member labor “by January 1.”

It is the member-owners of this co-operative who own the exclusive right to make any changes to our member-owner labor program, as per our bylaws, not the board of directors. Maintaining our right to work maintains our right to vote; something this board is attempting to unilaterally and secretly strip us of.

It has not escaped member-owners’ attention that – 23 days after the board’s (attempt) to end member labor by 01/01/16 – a membership meeting, with two significant ballots, had been planned on January 24, 2016. Stripping member-owners of the right to work on or before 01/01/16 would have virtually guaranteed a large voting bloc of disenfranchised member-owner voters on 01/24/16.

It is at this membership meeting that the (still secret?) bylaws were to be rolled out and member-owners (the few who still had the right to vote left) asked to ratify them.

This era of a pervasive pattern of strategic secrecy – supported by this board of directors as a way of doing business – needs to end. It goes against our mission & and our bylaws, and the open, transparent, democratic, co-operative process which has been the tradition and practice of the Honest Weight Food Co-operative, Inc. for almost 40 years.

It needs to be clearly understood that the two (2) law firms engaged by the board of directors – and including any of its consultants – are not acting in the best interests of the owners of this co-operative corporation.

This board’s attempt to alter the foundation & structure of our co-operative corporation – by doing end-runs  around the voting member-owners of our co-operative – must be halted.

It is for this reason that member-owners took immediate & decisive action on October 24, 2015 and petitioned for an emergency Special Membership Meeting, something which has rarely occurred in our 39 year history. That meeting takes place this coming Monday night, November 30, 2015.  Here is the meeting announcement: https://hwfcinfohub.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/special-membership-meeting-11-30-2015-revised-11-16.pdf

Here are several quotes pulled from the board’s NYS DOL letter: a “co-operative” effort between the executive committee & management (LT) of our co-operative with the help of two (2) law firms:

As part of this governance review, Honest Weight has determined to transition certain aspects of its business, particularly how certain members contribute to Honest Weight’s operations. Honest Weight members have historically contributed labor…

…During the governance review process, questions have been raised about members contributing labor…

…The transition away from members contributing labor has also raised significant and serious organizational, governance and cultural issues for Honest Weight.

…while the transition has been and will be very difficult for its members … Honest Weight’s Board of Directors has committed to this transition.

the Board of Directors is now operating under new leadership. [At the 10/20/15 board meeting, Deb Dennis had been appointed acting-President.] Under this new leadership, the Board of Directors has directed Honest Weight’s management team to commence the transition with all deliberate speed. [emphases all added]

Please note the the Board instructed our three-person Leadership Team (the LT or “management team”) to “commence the transition with all deliberate speed.” The LT, that is – Duke, Lexa and Lilly – have been, since the passage of this motion, acting against the best interests of the Member-Owners of this co-operative and “transitioning” us away from Member-Owners’ working on the floor – and being, thereby, allowed to maintain the right to vote in their own co-operative…

“…with all deliberate speed.”

Not only is the LT acting against the member-owners; they have been instructed to “transition” us out as fast as is humanly possible.

~~~

[1] HWFC member-owners, please go to the HWFC website at http://www.honestweight.coop/page/board-meeting-minutes-99.html and read the board minutes for the October 20, 2015 meeting, section 4 [2 hour 40 min. executive session, followed by two public votes].

[2] HWFC member-owners, please go  to  the HWFC website at http://www.honestweight.coop/page/inside-scoop-184.html and read the board’s November 19, 2015 Inside Scoop.

[3] HWFC member-owners, please go  to this HWFC website at http://www.honestweight.coop/page/board-meeting-minutes-99.html and read the board minutes for the November 3, 2015 meeting.

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31 thoughts on “GRASSROOTS ACTION: Board Messages Don’t Add Up: Part I

  1. Julie

    Thank you all for writing so well. I again ask, what is the cost for all these attorneys? Does the current Board plan to bankrupt the coop with attorney fees? How is it that all these expert attorneys have advised the Board that a public document should be kept secret? How is it that the experts have advised the Board to have members sign non disclosure statements?

    We need to remove the Board and immediately FIRE the attorneys. I’m pleading with you now. The Coop is in the red. We cannot afford another day of attorney fees. We have to climb out of debt, and the debt grows larger daily. It is exponentially growing and will cripple the Coop, causing undue work for the new Board.

    Jules

    Like

  2. Ned Depew

    Laura –
    this is kind of a one-sided account – from the outside. I argued for the minimum level of “confidentiality” with which the lawyers were comfortable from the beginning, and as I’ve said elsewhere, argued against the confidentiality agreement for the BLTF. I was outvoted. I respect this democratic process, even when I don’t agree with the outcome.

    My argument was that far from stifling the rumor mill – which was what “confidentiality” was ostensibly intended to accomplish – this attempt to close people out of the loop would only fuel rumors, which is what has happened here.

    There are a few errors of fact in this account. One is that the resolution to approve the sending of a letter to the DoL was understood by most of the Board to mean that the full Board would approve the letter before it was sent. As I’ve posted elsewhere, that did not happen, and it has been admitted that sending the letter without approval was a serious mistake. The letter itself was not “approved by the full Board,” only the intent to draft a letter and send it.

    While the letter as sent would not have met with my approval as it stands, I do not believe it is as prejudicial as some read it to be. For instance, the type of “transition” and its extent are not specified. In the event of a clear pass from the DoL – a statement for instance that they have reviewed the facts and find that Co-op owner-workers are not “employees” as the NYS DoL defines that class for FLSA purposes – the”transition” could be simply to add a segment to the MLP to allow Owner-wokers to get hour credit for working at outside NFPs.

    I agree the exact language is troubling – it troubles me – but I don’t believe it commits the Co-op to any particular course of action, other than making some sort of “transition” in the MLP.

    I believe the time-line is in error, although I am not sure. My understanding is that the letter was e-mailed or faxed to the DoL on 10/24, with a hard copy delivered by courier on 10//26. While I was not privy to the sending of that letter – it was done by the EC, contrary to our prior agreement – that is the time-line I was given at the time.

    A representative of membership, Ursula Abrams, who is herself a lawyer and was elected by membership to the GRC, has agreed to attend the meeting with the DoL along with the Co-op’s lawyers. There will be no members of the Board or the LT present at that meeting, only a member-worker from the GRC and the lawyers.

    The idea that the proposed (and withdrawn) cessation of Owner-labor on January 1 would have disenfranchised members from voting at the proposed January meeting is simply wrong. Since eligibility is based on the previous month’s hours, all members who worked in December would have been eligible to vote in January.

    By-laws changes to be presented to Membership for their approval or rejection were and are just that. The Board understood and agreed that we did not have the authority impose By-laws – nor did any of us wish to – and the proposed By-laws that the By Laws Task Force [BLTF] (not the Board, but a group containing members from many stakeholder groups) had come up with were to be presented to the Membership for their review and consideration – but not a vote. This was meant to be the beginning of a period of review and discussion among the membership, fine tuning, revising, accepting and possibly rejecting these proposals made by the BLTF, when the results of the previously “confidential” discussion were to be put on the table for everyone to read and to voice their opinion.

    For the record, I have never supported a “pervasive pattern of secrecy.” I have spoken (and when the issue has come to a vote, voted) against practically every proposal to keep information “confidential”- except in the case where it would clearly have been a violation of privacy or demonstrably have the potential to compromise the Co-op (as in releasing proprietary information that could be used against us by our competitors). I’ve consistently argued against holding “executive sessions” except under the very limited cases set out in the Board Policy Manual.

    Like all of you, I am disappointed by how this situation has played out. I admit that in my opinion the Board made serious mistakes. I was a party – although often an unwilling party – to those mistakes. But I would also ask you to understand that the Board’s work is difficult and complicated, and there are no easy solutions to many of our problems. What we have needed all along is an engaged, critical (in the best and most productive sense), creative membership to help us along.

    I have worked, as part of the Communications Committee of the Board, to set up a Forum for this kind of vibrant, creative, responsible dialog among members. But by-and-large until this “crisis” members didn’t seem to see the need for such an instrument, or the usefulness of the opportunity for ongoing dialog it provides. I hope this will help change that as well.

    If we can leave the emotion behind, forgive one another, avoid harsh, unkind, personal rhetoric, and face the issues squarely together, recognizing that although we may think that some others have wrong-headed notions, we have to hear them and respect them as we ask them to hear and respect us, and let the Membership decide, after considering all the view-points, what is best for all of us, I think we can come out of this stronger than ever.

    As I’ve pointed out to a number of people in conversation, shortly after the breakdown of my first marriage, I came a cross a tee-shirt that really help guide me on. On it was the Chinese character for “crisis,” which is composed of two Chinese characters – the character for “danger” and that for “opportunity.” If we can see this situation as embodying both those possibilities and move carefully, respectfully and thoughtfully to avoid the danger and seize the opportunity, this can be a wonderful, positive “transition” for the Co-op.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Julie

      Ned I appreciate your writing ability. I also appreciate you as a person. I would probably like all the Board, but perceived power and spending Coop money has a tendency to go to people’s heads. I absolutely do not appreciate what has gone down. Recently the Board mentioned in an email that they appeal to me not to release the DOL document, and if I did they would “handle it” in the future. Really? What does that mean? Is that a veiled threat?

      Ned, you are a party to what has gone on all this time, and you are just as responsible as all the other Board members. We need a new Board. You have had your time to do what you will, and now it’s time for new people.

      I once thought I would agree to you remaining on the Board, but I have changed that decision based on your lack of personal responsibility for what has gone on. Yes, you are party to this whole mess.

      The bottom line is this: The Board, as a whole, including you, has lied to the membership. The evidence is clearly here before us, even though the Board would have preferred to keep it secret. Remember, this DOL letter stating a declaration of ending Member Labor wasn’t even KNOWN to the membership.

      The Board also voted to END member labor without asking us. Whether or not you agree, you are part of this Board, and you yourself have admitted to voting for this letter to go to the DOL.

      The Board, as a whole, including you, are responsible for the massive fiscal debit happening every second that we have all these attorneys on the payroll. I will ask you again, what is the current tally for attorney fees? $50,000? $100,000? When will the attorney fees end?

      As a Board member, are you going to now tell us you are prohibited from providing this number for some reason? I’d like to know EXACTLY how much has been spent on attorney fees in 2015. Just round off a number and provide it to us here in full disclosure, please. Give us a number and please don’t direct us to learn all about finance with the Board. I already know enough about finance to just ask now for a NUMBER. $$$$$. How much did the Board spend on attorney fees in 2015? What is the cap on spending?

      The Coop is in DEBT. We cannot condone more spending on anything other than products, utilities, the banknote and personnel. Period.

      Now, here’s the deal. Why don’t you step down, and allow others to step up? You could remain on a committee, and offer your advice. At this point, the Membership, and I’ll speak for myself as a member, has lost faith in the Board. Period. Lies and secrecy will do that.

      My prayers are for all that has been hidden, including backroom deals with national companies to order product for the Coop, and including hidden financial expenses (I’ve been around the block a few times analyzing books), attorney fees, and anything else that the Board AND “Leadership” team has been hiding, to come to the LIGHT.

      This is my prayer. Let’s see what happens and who comes clean.

      Julie Harrell

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  3. Steve Young

    I agree with Julie, Ned. There is just too much clear, documented evidence that the board lied to us. Sure, you can argue that the sentence in paragraph four of the DOL letter that mentions “the transition away from members contributing labor” might just mean a small transition to a bit less member labor, but given that there are no qualifications added, I think any reasonable reader would assume it means ending member labor outright. Once the meaning of “transition” is established, the use of that word 3 times in paragraph 5 makes it clear to me and I think any reasonable reader that the board is in action to end member labor and has instructed management to begin the process.

    If there is still any doubt, the motion authorizing the letter on October 20 contains this: “to interface with the New York State Department of Labor and entities in connection with ending member labor on the floor and administration by January 1, 2016”.

    Either the board meant what they wrote or they are incompetent. I assume the former.

    Of course this combined with the board’s communication to the membership (verbally at the 11/3 meeting and in writing as documented above) gives us clear, documented evidence that they lied to us.

    In addition to this, we have the vote to end member labor in clear violation of the bylaws.

    Lies and overstepping formal boundaries destroy trust for good reasons. They are an indicator that the perpetrator is not trustworthy.

    I am doing my best to stay with clear, documented facts. I strongly suspect the board, leadership team and everyone else involved are good people who would make worthwhile friends. I suspect that they might believe they are doing what is best for the coop. Apparently, though the circumstances have somehow influenced them to behave in ways that are against our basic cooperative principles and good ethics in general. When this happens, it’s time for them to be held accountable and removed from office if they will not leave willingly.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ron

    I appreciate the observations by all parties here. It is quite different from the tone of the url those opposed to recalling the Board has taken though which now, it must be noted, has been toned down. Since the author of that url called those he opposed “zealots” and “Bolsheviks” it is worth turning the metaphor around and noting that these emotionally and ideologically driven posts have disappeared like commissars in the photos of the Stalin era and history has been rewritten.

    If I, once again a member and once again a member being prohibited from voting and running for the Board despite being initially told I could–my application like the commissars has disappeared–I would vote to maintain Ned. I think Ned alone among the Board members has acted with good faith in attempting to maintain our hybrid corporation/coop despite the persistent bullying or banality of silence among other Board members. I would not vote for the rest. I would also hope that Deb Daniels, who sent the draft letter, a faux pas, assuming it was a faux pas, of momentous and perhaps deleterious consequences, to the DoL should immediately resign and that John Serio who despite finishing second from the post in an election the person he replaced should do the same. Sadly, I don’t expect either of them to do the right thing.

    Really enjoyed the essay.

    Like

  5. Steve Young

    I realize that I was unclear in my previous post. I can see how supporting Ned to remain on the board would be constructed, although I haven’t decided yet.

    I’m also open to evidence based, well reasoned, on topic arguments from and board members. I will gladly change my mind if new evidence supports a different conclusion.

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  6. Julie

    Steve, the Board has held SO many meetings, yet the discovered, as opposed to freely offered, facts remain the same. The Board is lobbying to keep themselves in office, and has bumped petitioning members opposing them to the practitioner’s room by the bathrooms. Hmmm. Why would they do that I wonder? Because they can. I expect them to have something to say at the Membership meeting on Monday night. I’m hoping that they don’t plan to take over the meeting entirely LOL. I’m still waiting for a REAL financial accounting of attorney fees…

    Like

  7. Steve Young

    If the board is able to speak at the meeting, it’s only fair that concerned members have a chance to speak. What is the protocol on this?

    Like

    1. Julie

      Steve, I really have no idea. All I can say is, the existing Board has “managed” all previous communications and meetings, along with maintaining a consistent state of dishonesty, so it stands to reason that they will attempt to “co-opt” this meeting. I’m only going on past experience. The good news is that we can expect the Times Union to be there. Tim Obrien just interviewed me during lunch today about what’s going on at Honest Weight. Maybe that’s because I sent him the FOILED DOL letter. It arrived in my inbox right about the time that the Board’s email about me, stating they did not wish this letter to be made public, made it into my inbox. Based on the reporting Mr Obrien has done so far, I expect a very good and revealing article to be published both before and after the meeting. The Universe is amazing isn’t it? What has been hidden will be brought into the Light.

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  8. Mark Keller

    Julie, with all due respect, why do you want this in the Times Union? Isn’t this an internal matter, that would be better handled with the membership? And while you have made a number of references about the co-op being in the red, I can only see this as hurting and not helping the financial picture. From what I am told, the majority of co-op shoppers aren’t even members, and there are lenders and competitors watching as well. I just don’t see any advantage to sharing this outside of our community.

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    1. Ron

      There is a lot of talk and huffing and puffing about the lenders watching what is going on at the Corporation. I have seen or heard no hard evidence that they care anything other than getting their money back, however. If they are watching perhaps they can unilaterally rework the loan our powers that be took out and is causing much gnashing of teeth in the back rooms and the board rooms at the Corporation.

      Like

  9. Ron

    1. Wheeles has revised his screed. All the name culling and bullying tactics have disappeared into the ether just like Stalin’s commissars. History has been revised on Wheeless’s blog.

    2. The media question is moot. The T-U has already covered it. I would like to see The Guardian pick up the tale.

    3. Speaking of the media, Josh Poupure lists himself as a media relations “specialist” on his MyLife site.

    Like

  10. Julie

    Mark, Honest Weight is by the Board’s own admission a $26MM business operating in Albany, NY the capital of activism. The Coop will get press. It’s reality. Besides, Tim called me. I was only too happy to speak to him. I’m willing to stand up for my beliefs, and I’m not hiding in the shadows. If this makes you uncomfortable then well, hey, it’s me, not you.

    The Times Union has covered Honest Weight since its move to the bigger store many times, and many times those in power at Honest Weight have sought even more media attention. I had absolutely nothing to do with any of the previous press that Honest Weight received in the Times Union. Just google Times Union Honest Weight Food Coop and you’ll see a myriad of articles. It’s like being Tom Hanks. Once you are Tom Hanks and you star in many popular movies, you can’t go back to being a nobody.

    Press is good. The buying public will want to know what all the uproar is about, and 12,000 shareholders just can’t keep a secret anyway, nor should they be directed to keep a secret, LOL. How these 12,000 members can be expected to keep secret the same password used for hundreds of confidential documents is funny too. I’ve spent long enough in the IT world to know better.

    There’s no keeping this “within the community.” That’s like saying well we want to keep our town a secret but it’s on the map and has a big fat sign with a huge building. Let’s just hope no one sees it.

    Our community has grown. Besides, press is good. Press is free advertising. The NYS DOL provided me with a document that the Board said was a secret. I didn’t tell the NYS DOL I was a member of the Coop and yet they provided it within two weeks of my FOIL request. When you have a big store that is prominently displayed and sells lots of stuff to the public, it will be in the news. It will be public.

    Let’s give them a show they won’t forget. Hiding secrets is generally a poor business practice anyway. May all the little secrets be uncovered and brought to the Light.

    Jules Harrell
    photonicgirl@hotmail.com

    Like

  11. Need Depew

    Jules –

    I’ve said what I have to say and you will make your own judgments and decisions. I would only offer that the “off with their heads” approach only makes sense if you have something positive with which to replace the current system. I don’t want a “show” that damages the Co-op, no matter how entertaining it might seem. I want a vision and a plan to move forward together, with the support as much of our membership as we can include.

    Whether I am removed or not will certainly not solve the systemic problems the Co-op faces. People like me, who have some experience on the Board, have a much better handle on what those problems are and how they might be best addressed. If you start with a group of all newcomers who haven’t been working on the problems for years, they’ll have to go through the same learning process we’ve had to go through – without the benefit of anyone who has been through that process and thought about the arguments. At a critical time like this that seems a wrong choice.

    As I’ve said above, I trust the Membership as a body and their commitment to the Co-op to refrain from doing anything that would cause long-lasting damage. We all want the Co-op to thrive and as a member I’d need someone to convince me that they had a better plan before I just swept everything off the table.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ned maybe these newcomers might do a better job right? Lets give them that chance. The problems seem to have grown exponentially with the current board have they not? And by the way do you have a $$$ number for us? You know, attorney fees to date. Or are those a secret too?

      Like

      1. Ron

        Don’t newly elected members have to have access to stuff that has been kept secret from the rest of us lowlies before a plan can be developed? I mean would you accuse those who revealed their plans before opening the box of secrets of acting too soon and without enough information. God these ideological binaries can go on forever…

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    1. Ned et al: Since you are concerned with the learning curve that a new Board may experience, and you truly care about the future of Honest Weight, you and the rest of the ousted Board should remain available, join committees and use your knowledge to help the new Board. We as members would expect this of a group of people who state their dedication to Honest Weight’s future. If, on the other hand, you completely recuse yourselves rather than pass along knowledge to the new, incoming Board, then your true intent will be revealed to the members. I am looking forward to a new Board making transparent decisions. Hopefully the old Board will help, but if you can only be useful while in a position of governing power, then the question of who truly cares about the future of Honest Weight will be answered, in public, for us all.

      Like

  12. Ned Depew

    Jules –
    I’m not leaving the Co-op. I’ll continue to work for my vision of the organization – as a member owned and operated co-operative organization – whoever is on the Board. Newcomers my do very well, but they will have a steep learning curve to negotiate, and at a time when things are unfolding rather quickly, that may slow the process down in ways that could be bad for the Co-op. Is the risk is worth the potential improvement? That’s yours to decide.

    Believe me, I’m not in any way “lobbying” for my job. I’m lobbying for the ideas that I believe will best serve the Co-op. I can do that effectively whether I’m on the Board or not. I am concerned that if whatever Board we end up with is not closely monitored by Membership the same dysfunction will end up propagating itself.

    The year I was off the Board – 20012-13 – saw the effective abandonment of consensus decision-making on the Board, an attempt to stifle the dissenting voice of Rebekah Rice and other abuses that I – who attended a number of those Board meetings as a member – pointed out, and tried to get other members interested in correcting – to little avail.

    @Ron – no, “keeping the MLP” is not a “plan.” it is a goal. How will that MLP be structured and administered? Are there no problems at all with the current MLP that need to be addressed? Do the candidates have a plan to address them? We really need a vision of how the Co-op wants to move forward.

    I have my own – that we should cease expansion, get our current house in order and get out from under our debt load as quickly as possible as the first step. We can do that primarily by harnessing the enormous latent power of our loyal membership as one of the chief tools in our marketing strategy. We have to increase revenues – that solves all our problems. We can do that by using our collaborative creativity to drive our marketing efforts. We can do that by allowing the people in departments, who speak directly with the customers, and know the needs of the Departments, much greater control over Department marketing – with help, co-ordination, guidance and and support from the Marketing and Merchandising department, but with Departments and those who are responsible for the performance of those Departments as co-leaders.

    We can improve the performance of the store and morale of workers (which go hand in hand) by insisting on the institution of a system of “servant leadership” (please google this topic and read all about it) which is the most natural and fitting kind of management for a co-operative enterprise. This improvement will inspire all involved to work collectively to improve the store we all own, and engage all member-workers, staff and otherwise, in a truly collegial effort.

    I have many other ideas and plans, which I’d be happy to share at length. Many of them I’ve already expressed in private conversations, and in Board discussions. I look forward to working with whatever configuration of Board comes out of this ferment, as a Board member or a Member, to advocate for these plans, and for a bright, creative, prosperous future for the Co-op, which I know is within our reach.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Good answer Ned. With our newfound transparency, are you at liberty now to PLEASE share with us the cost, to date, for attorneys in 2015? Please. In a good faith effort to not keep secrets you would go far by a simple financial disclosure here, now. I have asked this question repeatedly and thus far, not one Board member has stepped forward to answer my request. I am still waiting. Will you honor this request from an almost 22 year member? Surely you have noticed thst I keep asking the same question. How is it that you have yet to provide a number? Please be specific. Thank you. Jules Harrell

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  13. Ron

    Ned, as you know you and I have worked together if without much success and we know why, to try to improve the member worker programme. Like everything it can be improved as could the governance of HWFC by the Board.

    I still think it will take awhile for new Board personnel to get acclimated to what has been going on, some of it in secret, so that the Board can move forward. What is clear to me is that the Board needs to return to what, in my understanding, it initially was, a body that was supposed to act in the name of the members and as a check and balance on the other legislative bodies of HW. I don’t think it is that at the moment.

    I agree with your recommendation to take stock of where we are at the moment. I think there has been far too much emphasis on profits, far too much emphasis on Whole Foods, which is hurting at the moment too–that says something about the ever crowded marketplace–and far too much emphasis on projections and growth. While I don’t have a problem with some growth, it is a hyper emphasis on growth that has got the world to the place it is today, in trouble.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Ned Depew

    Jules –

    I don’t actually have that information, but I’ll try to get it. The problem is that it is hard – maybe impossible to separate the work done on Real Estate and other issue from work done in consultation with the Board or with the By-Laws Revision Task Force. But I’ll get what figures I am able to get.

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    1. Thank you Ned. Please get us that number broken down by law firm or month. Once the new Board and Members have a real number they can weigh this expense against other higher priority accounts payable and also truly see how much $$$ the old Board has wasted in the past year. Attorney fees are truly not necessary most of the time unless you are dealing with litigation or purchasing real estate. I believe the attorney fees at Honest Weight (including accounts not yet billed) will total between $50,000 and $100,000 for 2015. I hope Im mistaken but that is my guesstimate. Now, considering our deficit was over $400,000 by the Board’s last report, it seems to me attorney fees are the first fat to be trimmed. But before we trim we must first stop the bleed. I am under the impression that the current Board still has multiple firms with more billable hours to come. Let’s end that now shall we? Cut the attorneys, pay the bank note. Its a simple way to get out of debt faster. Julie Harrell

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