Questions still unanswered

Submitted by Julie Harrell

Ned et. al.,

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.

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.

Ned, et. al.,

AGAIN, Please answer this question for the membership. As a Board member it behooves you to HAVE this information at your fingertips. With a current deficit of >$400k according to the Board’s communication to members a few months ago, it’s important that Members know how much in the hole the Coop currently is for attorney fees, and if there is a projected cap on this type of extraneous spending. Thank you.

Jules Harrell

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5 thoughts on “Questions still unanswered

  1. Ned Depew

    Jules-
    There are many financial details (and for that matter, details of the day-to-day store operations) that I don’t have at my fingertips. A 26 Million dollar operation makes a huge footprint. Board members serve for free and part time, so there is no possibility of devoting the amount of time that would be required to keep on top of this level of detail.

    No one can have all those details in their head – not even Duke. But we can find them out. If I’m on the Board in a few days I’ll undertake to make sure those answers are found and made public, to the extent that corresponds to the Co-ops need to protect proprietary information.

    As far as the Co-op’s financial situation is concerned, we were actually on target to break even this year (instead of ending with a 200K net profit, as we had hoped) but our holiday season so far has been well above expectations, so… stay tuned.

    We have spent a lot of money this last year on the Strategic Planning process and the By-Laws revision process, some of the latter for lawyers, since it would be foolish to spend time and energy writing by-laws that conflicted with applicable state and federal laws. One of the questions raised in that analysis was whether the Co-op might have a problem at some point with federal or state labor laws. That’s how this whole thing got started.

    Lawyers are insanely expensive and I agree we could have tried to rely more on Owners – although the particular expertise required in this case is not necessarily something lawyers whose practice is differently directed might possess.

    Legal fees are one of the costs of doing business in America in the 2000’s. I agree that we should do our best to contain them, but I also feel it is in the best interests of the Co-op to get the best legal advice we can. Like taking supplements and staying healthy is much cheaper than going to the Doctor when something goes wrong, getting the best advice up front is far cheaper than getting involved in expensive litigation.

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    1. Ned, this is all great, but you have neglected to provide a simple number to the Membership after about 10 requests. I understand your reasoning and I’ve heard it before…but again, in full disclosure, you have not provided a simple number. Hmmmm.

      I disagree with the Board’s heavy handed reliance on attorneys in secret Executive sessions.

      I’m particularly concerned with your statement “If I’m on the Board in a few days I’ll undertake to make sure those answers are found and made public, to the extent that corresponds to the Board’s need to protect proprietary information.”

      You have been on the Board long enough to provide this information to us yet you dance around it. What’s proprietary about providing a subjectively chosen cost, that could easily be cut without affecting the operations of the Coop, to the Members?

      These pricey (we can only guess how much) attorneys so far evidently have either given the Board conflicting advice, or wrong advice, or the Board ignored their advice. We will never know. What I do know is that the secrecy surrounding certain hot topics such as true financial disclosure represents an abscess that should be pierced and drained. By your own keeping of these secrets your motives, as a Board member to be are to me, suspect.

      Having served on three boards in a financial capacity and having seen directors, board members, accountants, and sundry managers come and go (sometimes they leave quickly!), I can tell you that a simple question such as this, as well as a simple signature on one invoice, provides a wealth of information. It only takes a little question to discover a true state of affairs.

      I am opening Pandora’s box now, and my legal fees question is the key. Your refusal to answer is answer enough to the Membership. Either you believe in transparency, or like the rest of the Board, you believe you have a right to hide financial information from the Membership. I have seen this happen on three different Boards, Ned. It’s always the same. Different Board, same issue. Hide the financials. Hide certain unsavory facts from stakeholders. Hope no one finds out the true numbers.

      Your word play refusal to answer a simple question might fly in the corporate world, unless you have me conducting your audit LOL, but it won’t fly in a Coop with a voting Membership.

      The Board has hidden many of its plans and it took a FOIL request to find a DOL letter that was written by attorneys in secret. If they are doing this, and advising the Board to keep secret this public letter from the Membership (or did the Board do that on their own?) imagine how many other things these attorneys are doing right now as we speak on behalf of the current Board. I can only imagine.

      Thank you for showing that you will not answer this question unless you are kept on the Board, at your promise. Your caveat of “unless it’s proprietary information” makes it clear that even your promise isn’t real. Should you decide this financial disclosure is proprietary then the rest of us will continue to wonder what in the heck the Board is up to behind closed doors.

      With our new Board, I have faith that true disclosure is at hand.

      Jules Harrell

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  2. Rebecca, let’s not ask the lawyers, as they are charging the Coop at probably $400 per hour. Let’s ask the Board. They are the decision makers, not the lawyers. The lawyers are for hire, that’s all. They have no decision making ability nor anything other than their legal guidance which may or may not have been correct. I have no way of knowing exactly what the Board asked them during Executive Session. We do not need lawyers. I repeat. We DO NOT NEED THEM.

    We also cannot afford the luxury of continuing to pay legal fees. Members have no idea how much as been spent already and to do what? Subvert Member Labor?

    We must instead pay the bank notes on time. Attorney fees are the biggest, most easily resolved, fiscal drain facing the Coop. It’s time to end them now.

    Julie Harrell
    photonicgirl@hotmail.com

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