Voice Mail – March 2018

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Hand holding a quill pen

This month, the Co-op Voice received three letters; one to the Co-op Community, and the other two addressed to the Co-op Membership

Letter from Joan Ross
Letter from Stacy Onorata
Letter from Chris Colarusso


Dear Co-op Community,

The Food for Thought film series, a partnership between WAMC and Honest Weight, has been presenting socially-relevant documentaries since 2008. Members of the Outreach Committee prepare and serve food samplings and work in various capacities at The Linda, WAMC’s Performing Arts Studio, on the evening of the film.

The series was recently discontinued, due to loss of grant funding, but a new film screening project is in the works.

While scheduling and film selection is firmed up, we wanted to let you know that Honest Weight’s new partnership with the Sierra Club promises to bring an enlightening array of documentaries to The Linda. The monthly series, scheduled tentatively for the fourth Thursday of each month, will feature a social hour from 6:00 to 7:00, with food sampling provided by Honest Weight and music performed by Jack Empire and Friends, a film at 7:00, and a panel discussion after.

Look for an article in the April Voice, with updates on this new series.

Best,
Joan Ross

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Dear Fellow Member-Owners,

I read with sadness the latest issue of the Inside Scoop. To publish my former colleague and friend Mary Sweeney’s subjective view of recent events (with loaded words such as “lobbying,” “mob,” “under attack,” “campaign,” etc.) that occurred more than five months ago is a misuse of the Inside Scoop and perpetuates the vitriol that I and my colleagues who resigned from the board in October have sought to avoid. Nevertheless, some misconstructions must be rebutted.

Mary and I were both elected to serve on the HWFC Board of Directors last April. During our time together on the Board, we discussed many topics and concerns. When the disagreements of last summer threatened to shatter the alliance that had so capably rescued the Co-op, Kate Doyle, Rebekah Rice and I considered possible solutions to the situation. One possibility was a small change in Board leadership. In my own naïve and straightforward way, I telephoned the Board President and asked if she would consider stepping aside and allowing Mary (as Vice President) to preside at meetings to see if things would go more smoothly. I also reminded the President that, as another possibility, we could call a vote of no confidence. This was done not as a threat, but as part of a tempered conversation.

My suggestion to change who would preside was rejected summarily. Kate, Rebekah, and I decided against a vote of no confidence, and Kate and Rebekah resigned for reasons they detailed in their letters to the Membership which were published in the October Voice. Not knowing what effect another resignation would have, I tried remaining on the Board for a few more weeks but ultimately felt very strongly that the truncated Board was not a group I could work with, and so I, too, resigned.

Since that time, I have seen and heard my motives and actions, and those of my fellow former Board members, mis-characterized in the Inside Scoop, at Membership Meetings, and at Board informational meetings. Also, the Board has chosen to circumvent both the Bylaws Panel when formulating new Bylaws, and the GRC when it (the GRC) issued a request for the election of new Board members at the January Membership Meeting. Further, the Board pilloried the Co-op Voice for publishing Kate and Rebekah’s resignation letters, gave it an ultimatum to submit to Board control, and ultimately severed the Voice team members from receiving member hours for publishing the member newsletter.

I impugn no one’s motives; we all want the Co-op to survive and thrive. However, no one can claim that these actions have been cooperative. Using the Inside Scoop to rail against “the aggressively negative culture in governance”, while exemplifying it, is not helpful. Continuing to assign blame to others is not a solution. To avoid similar conflicts in the future, it is incumbent upon all of use to engage in self-reflection on how each of us has contributed to getting to this point.

The serious concerns raised in Kate and Rebekah’s letters of resignation have never been addressed or rebutted. Despite cries of “defamation” the issues raised are all substantive and, to the best of my knowledge, the assertions are true. I am grateful that we have a committed Voice, independent from the Board, and I look forward to a new spirit of cooperation and robust democratic involvement as we move toward Board elections in April.

Sincerely,

Anastasia “Stacy” Onorata

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March 17, 2018

Dear Members of the Co-op Community,

The timing of the recent Inside Scoop is, in my view, another example of the actions that have led me to see our Board acting in its own interest while apparently refusing to adopt suggestions made to work toward understanding and reconciliation. The Board has known about Mary Sweeney’s resignation for some time and told the Membership at its February meeting. I am concerned that there is little recognition of the harm this situation is causing within the Co-op Community.

At recent Board Meetings I rose to request that the Board make a statement to the Membership that conveyed a more inclusive understanding of the issues that led six Board members to resign. A letter I wrote in a recent issue of The Co-op Voice conveyed my serious concern for the conflict among Board members: “The problems that led to Board resignations began and fermented within the Board. The Member-Owners of this cooperative had a right to know that the resignation of five [now six] of our nine elected Board members in a relatively short span of time was happening without our collective consideration or input. I again request that the Board share any non-confidential information related to this matter with the Membership.”

I believe that Board actions during the GRC election in October of 2017 corrupted the election process. At that election, Board members personally and publicly attacked a former Board member and distributed an unsigned document maligning a presumed candidate. They also spoke out during that period publicly maligning the GRC directly. At the more recent Membership Meeting involving issues raised by staff of the Co-op Voice, the Board again acted in a manner that interfered with the fairness of that vote and again overly influenced the outcome.

Perhaps the most confounding and confusing aspect of publishing Mary Sweeney’s letter of resignation at this point is the direct attack written by the Board to explain why they did so. The Co-op Voice had on February 7th invited Mary to submit a letter of resignation to be published in the Voice so that Membership could learn her reasons for resigning. Mary submitted a letter but the Voice declined to publish it as written, because of their strengthened editorial policies insisted upon previously by the Board. The Voice asked Mary to consider modifying the letter in compliance with those guidelines, but Mary chose not to do so. Yet, the Board released the original, unedited letter on March 15th, claiming that its accusations (although far from specific) were substantiated by material they had shared with us in a previous Inside Scoop.

Situational ethics appear to be at play here; it seems that the notion of fact and opinion are being confused. It is also of note that by mid October 2017 the Board members with whom Mary Sweeney may have had the most difficulty had resigned. Mary then had an opportunity to work with the remaining members toward making it a stronger Board. Instead, three and one half months later she resigned, and appears to hold others responsible.

More confusion is not helpful as we approach the next Membership Meeting where we are faced with the challenge of electing eight Board members. It is time to come together to stabilize our governance. We all can share pride in the extraordinary work of our Board. Despite the conflict that has been part of the process, we are a stronger, more stable, resilient and sustainable Co-op than we were two years ago. Conflict is not necessarily bad; it only becomes destructive when resolution is not sufficiently pursued.

Chris Colarusso
Member-Owner of Honest Weight Food Coop

“Nothing could be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon and left one unexpended effort that might have saved the world.” Jane Addams

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