Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner
My blog theme this week is:
Why Vote on Sunday, April 17, 2016 at the HWFC Membership Meeting?
After each blogpost this week (see April 9 and April 12), I hope you will come away having yet another really important reason for attending our co-op’s Annual Membership Meeting and Board Elections this Sunday, April 17, 2016 at the St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church at 440 Whitehall Road in Albany, NY.
4:00 – 5:30 pm Meet the Candidates (see here for meeting details, here for the agenda and here, here and here for candidate information)
5:30 – 6:00 pm Dessert Potluck and opportunity for conversation. Please bring a healthy snack or dessert item to share. HWFC will provide beverages
6:00 – 8:00 pm MEMBERSHIP MEETING
SKUNKWORKS OPERATION RUMORED
MASS FLOOR NOMINATIONS PLANNED?
AN ATTEMPT TO WATER DOWN DECLARED CANDIDATES’ VOTE TALLIES, PREVENTING THEIR ELECTION
We are hearing persistent rumors that a group of HWFC Members may be planning an attempt to water down the vote tallies of the eight (8) candidates who met the deadline for candidacy and participated in the process (and the two (2) who got their applications in late): for a total of ten (10) announced candidates.
Seven (7) Board seats are up for election.
What does this mean?
Once quorum is reached (when the required number of voting Member-Owners has been reached), our Membership Meeting is called to order. At the appropriate time in the agenda, the declared candidates will each be allowed equal time to make a statement to the Membership. After this occurs, there will be a call from the meeting moderator for nominations from the floor, which our bylaws appear to allow. 
We are hearing rumors that there is a plan to have a large number of candidates nominate themselves from the floor.
Should 5 or 7 or 10 people do this, it could act to take away votes from the ten (10) declared candidates.
Why does this matter?
Any one candidate who does not receive at least 25% of the vote at our election (a plurality), will not have met the minimum requirement for election to the Board. Their name will be removed from consideration.
So, if we have 600 voting Members show up to vote, each of the ten (10) declared candidates must receive at least 150 votes, to have met the minimum requirement of 25% of the votes.
Any candidate who receives less than 150 votes – if there are 600 voting Members – will have his or her name removed from consideration for Board election.
If more than seven (7) candidates receive enough votes to sit upon our Board, the seven (7) with the largest number of votes (a majority) will be elected.
ANNOUNCED CANDIDATES HONOR OUR DEMOCRATIC PROCESS
Eight candidates made a public commitment to Membership and followed our process for announcing their candidacy for the Board. They announced with enough time for Member-Owners to get to know them and their positions. They took time to fill out an application and submit it on time, attend Meet the Candidates Forums at HWFC, and participate in a Q&A sponsored by the Co-op Voice. (Two additional candidates got their applications in late.) This makes for a total of ten (10) announced candidates for the Board.
These ten (10) candidates took the time to plan: checking with their families, making sure they can sustain the commitment, time and energy needed to serve on our Board. They have honored our process and insured that Membership had ample opportunity to meet them, get to know their views and ask questions.
This ability to plan, commit follow through, communicate in a public and transparent way, and to work co-operatively with our process, demonstrates some of the very leadership qualities we want to see in a potential Board member.
NOMINEES FROM THE FLOOR: WHY ARE THEY WAITING ‘TIL THE LAST MINUTE TO RUN?
Our bylaws currently appear to allow for nominations or self-nominations for Board election. I’m not an attorney, but there appears to to me to be some clear ambiguity in the bylaws on this issue. 
That said, why would a group of Members chose to wait until the absolute very last minute to put their names forward, without granting Membership any time to hear their platform or to get to know them?
That is quite disrespectful of the Membership.
Given all the communication and discussion – well ahead of time – about our annual Membership Meeting and Elections, and the well-organized planning process by both the Nominations and Membership Committees (thank you very, very much everybody!), how can anyone – or a group of anyones – defend waiting until minutes before the election to announce their intention to run?
Why would a group do this? What is the motive for this group action?
At the very least, it demonstrates a lack of the ability to communicate in a public and transparent way, and to work co-operatively with our process. It demonstrates a will to subvert democratic process and it demonstrates poor leadership qualities. These are qualities I will not cast a vote for.
THEIR REAL MOTIVES?
It is likely that the real motive is to shift votes away from the ten (10) publicly-announced candidates – a ploy to water down the vote – so that some or all of the announced candidates cannot reach the minimum number of votes (25%) to be considered.
In other words, their names would be tossed out from the running.
We could end up with some or none of the previously-declared candidates or Board incumbents reaching the 25%, or candidates from the subversive “From-the-Floor-Nominations-Group” being elected to our Board.
Or we could end up with no candidates for the Board being elected.
A PLAN TO UNDERMINE OUR DEMOCRATIC PROCESS MAY BE IN PROGRESS
If there is any plan to have 5 or 7 or 10 people nominated from the floor, that indicates to me – not an intent to run for any legitimate reason, rather a plan – as a group – to disrupt, agitate, thumb their noses at, and undermine the democratic and co-operative principles by which we were founded and by which we operate.
If our bylaws allow that these individuals each be allowed time to address Membership (and that is also unclear to me from our bylaws)  – we will have a very long meeting. It does not at all seem fair that a group of candidates announcing their intent to run minutes before an election, should be given equal time to address Membership, as the candidates who declared their intention to run well ahead of our Annual Elections.
It looks for all the world like this is a plan to attempt to get rid of our four seated Board members – Carolyn Presser, Kate Doyle, Saul Rigberg and Ned Depew – and, at the same time, an attempt to grab some of the Board seats by members of this subversive group.
Or, maybe this group hopes to dilute the vote enough so that nobody gets elected.
Or, maybe they hope that by spreading rumors – ahead of the Election – a good percentage of HWFC Member-Owners will not show up to vote, out of fear.
Finally, this group could simply wish to cause disruption to the Membership Meeting and Elections.
Likely, it’s all of the above.
Planned disruption of this nature – deliberately designed to cause agitation, conflict, hostility, and fear at a Membership Meeting of our food co-operative – needs to be called out ahead of time.
This type of determined aggression and offensive behavior at our co-op needs to have the light of day shone down upon it each and every time it is uncovered.
If there is a group of HWFC members who are participating in this plan, you need to step forward – NOW – and declare your names and your intentions. Please post below, we Member-Owners want to know who you are.
If you have information about this plan, you need to immediately step forward and alert Membership Meeting planners (see below). 
PLANNING DISRUPTION TO OUR PROCESS IS DESPICABLE
This action, as well as the planning of this action, is despicable.
Spreading a rumor that this action may occur – using a tactic of fear so that Member-Owners may be too afraid to attend our Membership Meeting and vote on Sunday – is despicable.
I would not want any of these individuals to serve on our Board or in any leadership capacity in our co-operative.
BUT THE BYLAWS SAY PEOPLE CAN SELF-NOMINATE FROM THE FLOOR, DON’T THEY?
That may be correct.  That does not mean that a group of people can manipulate the intent of the bylaws, with an endgame of disrupting, agitating, causing conflict and derailing a nomination’s process, a Membership Meeting, and an Annual Election.
The bylaws also state that we will, above all, behave in a co-operative manner.
These actions are not at all co-operative.
SECRET PLANNING …AGAIN
Planning of this nature – ahead of time, in a small group, in secret, behind the back of Membership, subverting the will of Membership – comes straight out of the playbook of the former Board of Directors  …
…who, let’s remember, had the help of one of Albany’s top-ten Strategic PR & Lobbying firms, as well as help from a very, very pricey national .coop firm, to help in scripting political actions against the voting, shareholders – the owners – of our co-operative corporation. 
This current subversive action has all the feel – yet again – of an action planned by paid pros, who are trained in astroturfing (fake grassroots’ actions used against citizen groups, which meet the agenda of a paying client or corporation): that is, in subverting real grassroots actions (like our co-op’s annual Membership Meetings and Elections).
This current (rumor-mill) action seems all too familiar to me. Doesn’t it to you, too?
After all, the former Board and (their supporters) didn’t just go away after November 30, 2015 – the date of our historic emergency Special Membership Meeting – and, remember, this is the first Board Election since we Members challenged and put down their activities.
Makes sense that these supporters would try to re-take the Board …somehow …or at least throw a monkey-wrench into the works.
Think I’m paranoid? The $500,000 (!) the former Board spent on attorneys and consultants (pros) to undermine and eliminate Member-Owner legal power & control in our co-operative corporation should lay that thought to rest. 
Go watch your favorite Wall Street movie again. What do you call it when a Board of Directors tries to secretly wrestle control of a corporation from the shareholders?
We cannot permit this kind of destructive infiltration at our co-op, ever again.
We Member-Owner-Shareholders – the grassroots of HWFC – need to keep control of our Board on Sunday, April 17, 2016.
HERE’S WHO’S RUNNING: OUR DECLARED CANDIDATES
New Depew and Collin Thomas are (late) declared candidates. Ned’s bio is tacked to the Member-Owner bulletin board, at the back of the co-op. I have no information about Collin’s bio.
Let’s not forget that the seven (7) people we elect on Sunday will be joining Nate Horwitz, President, and Daniel Morrissey, who are incumbents and not up for election at this time.
That will be our team!
WHAT TO DO
- CHOOSE YOUR SEVEN (7) CANDIDATES AHEAD OF TIME
- CALL FIVE (5) HWFC MEMBERS WHOM YOU KNOW: REMIND THEM TO COME VOTE
- PREPARE A DELICIOUS SNACK OR DESSERT POTLUCK TO SHARE
- COME OUT AND VOTE ON SUNDAY! WE NEED LARGE VOTER TURNOUT!
1. Follow through on the elections we had at our historic emergency Membership Meeting on November 30, 2015: we elected Carolyn Presser, Kate Doyle and Nate Horwitz (Nate is not up for election at this time): Re-elect Carolynn and Kate!
2. Nate, Carolynn and Kate chose Saul Rigberg to join their team on the Board: Elect Saul Rigberg!
Elect the three (3) individuals who are currently on our Board – Carolyn Presser, Kate Doyle and Saul Rigberg – who have served with distinction, honor and integrity under difficult circumstances …and are seated as a result of our emergency Special Membership Meeting on November 30, 2015.
3. Preview the candidates’ bios, their Q&A Responses and the summary of the Meet the Board Candidates Meeting from April 3rd now. Of the seven (7) remaining candidates, select four (4). Make your decision now as to which four (4) additional candidates you will vote for.
4. Attend the Meet the Candidates Forum at St. Sophia’s, prior to the Membership Meeting on Sunday; it starts at 4:00pm. If you were undecided going into the Forum, come out of it with the names of the seven (7) candidates you wish to vote for firmly decided. Go into our Dessert Potluck at 5:30pm knowing whom you are voting for.
5. Do not support or allow agitators – for any reason – to disrupt our Membership Meeting on Sunday.
Too many Member-Owners have worked too hard and very co-operatively since October 22, 2015 – to take back our co-op – to allow such a disruption to our democratic process.
Support the candidates who have exhibited good leadership qualities by honoring our nominations’ process and declaring their candidacy well before this Annual Election, and most importantly, understood that Membership needs a chance to get to know the candidates before voting for them.
WHY YOU NEED TO SHOW UP AND VOTE THIS SUNDAY
We – the Member-Owners – are the grassroots! Real grassroots work triumphs over skunkworks, every time, baby!
Do not succumb to any fear you may have – which this group may be deliberately pumping ahead of time; they want you to be afraid, they want you to not show up and vote! Don’t allow their brokering of fear – executed using secrecy, innuendo and whispered intimidation – to stop you from voting! As author Susan Jeffers said: Feel the fear and do it anyway!
That old saying, There’s power in numbers is not meaningless. ~620 of us showed up to address an emergency at our co-op – reigning in an out-of-control Board – and voted to correct the problem on November 30, 2015! Meeting attendance was ~720! Historic, guys! We confronted the secret agendas and fear then …and we triumphed! If you were there you were witness to and part of that incredible, historic, grassroots, food co-op power!
Individuals, families & community standing strong to defend what is ours!
Let’s follow through and do it again.
Your participation on Sunday is CRUCIAL to insuring that we Member-Owners seat a Board which honors democratic principles and which has people on it who have demonstrated – well ahead of this election – that they have the ability to plan, to follow through, to communicate in a public and transparent way, and to work co-operatively with our process, as part of a team.
These are the leadership qualities for which I will cast my votes on Sunday.
And I have no secret ballot to hide: I know I am voting for Carolynn Presser, Kate Doyle and Saul Rigberg …and by so doing, following up on our historic elections of November 30, 2015. In just three – four months, they have proved their ability to lead.
I will decide upon my remaining four votes …way before Sunday.
Please, you do the same.
The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.
John Philpot Curran 
 See HWFC bylaws, dated April 26, 2015, under Board of Directors, Standing Committees, Nominating Committee, 461 (pp. 16-17):
“461 Nominating Committee
The Nominating Committee shall be responsible for recommending new Board members to fill openings as they occur and for recommending Board candidates to the Membership. The work of the Nominating Committee shall not preclude the right of any Member to be nominated or self-nominated.“
I found no reference to floor nominations being allowed under Membership, Regular Membership Meetings, 342 (pp. 8-9), or Board of Directors, Terms and Elections, 410 (pp. 10-12).
There appears to be ambiguity, in that the reference to nominate or self-nominate occurs only under 461, Board of Directors, Standing Committees, Nominations Committee, not under either 342, Membership, Regular Membership Meetings, or 410, Board of Directors, Terms and Election.
342 and 410 are both silent on the issue of nominations from the floor, self or otherwise, at the HWFC annual Membership Meeting & Board Elections.
 I can find no language in our current bylaws, dated April 26, 2015, which address this issue.
 If there is a group of HWFC members who are participating in this plan, you need to step forward – NOW – and declare your names and your intentions. Please post below, we Member-Owners want to know who you are.
If you have information about this plan, you need to immediately step forward and alert Membership Meeting planners (Membership Committee: MembershipComm-AT-honestweight.coop
I will find out the names of the exact right people to contact and update this post, here, with that information.
 The four Board members who subsequently quit our Board on 01/05/16, 36 days after censure by Membership at our emergency Special Membership Meeting on 11/30/15 are:
Name Percentage of voters voting non-confidence & censure
Acting-President Deb Dennis (67.9%)
Treasurer Leif Hartmark (65.2%)
Roman Kuchera (67.8%)
Rossana Coto-Batres (58.4%)
Former President Bill Frye was unseated and Board Secretary John Serio was not re-elected to the Board at our emergency Special Membership Meeting on 11/30/15.
 The former HWFC Board of Directors had contracts executed in 2015 with both Corning Place Communications, Albany, NY and CDS Consulting Co-op, Putney, VT.
 The Quarterly Financial Report, which our current Treasurer, Kate Doyle, is preparing, will shock all of us. The monies used by the former Board – to undermine and eliminate Member-Owner power – to pay all these attorneys and consultants came directly out of our HWFC savings: the funds you and I, and all the other HWFC Member-Owners, all collectively “own:” the funds which positioned us as a financially-healthy food co-op. Our savings was used against us, in order to eliminate the power & control we legally hold in our co-operative corporation.
Member-Owners, see the Agenda for the April 17, 2016 Membership Meeting and Annual Elections, here. It states: “$500,000 [was spent] to eliminate member labor and strategic planning to design its replacement.”