Will Davis Food Co-Op Terminate Its General Manager?

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Davis-food-coopTonight the Davis Food Co-Op board will meet in part to discuss the future of Eric Stromberg.  The meeting will be held in the Co-op Teaching Kitchen, 537 G Street, starting at 7 PM.

The Vanguard received an email from a co-op member on Sunday indicating, “Eric Stromberg, general manager of the Davis food COOP was given his notice yesterday. The Co-op board meets on Monday and we need to let them know that the community does not support this action.”

The email goes on to state: “No reason has been given. Eric was handed a lawyer’s letter and nothing else.”

“Please contact all the members of the board as well as all your friends, business associates and fellow coop members and let them know that this action is outrageous,” the email continued.

“Let me emphasize that there is no economic or personnel issue that caused this action,” said the email.  “Eric has worked at the COOP since August 1 of 2000 and has been instrumental in navigating the coop through many political and economic challenges that have faced the COOP. Under his leadership, the coop has continued to be competitive, a destination in Davis, and huge contributor to the entire Davis community.”

The email concludes, “Not only is Eric well respected locally but is also considered one of the top COOP general managers in the entire US. He has traveled all over the world helping other COOPs.”

Board President Stacie Frerichs told the Vanguard on Sunday, “The board will be responding to any comments we receive by Friday of this week. We have a board meeting on Monday and members are welcome to give member comment during the agenda item for member comment (item 1.2 at 7:00).”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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18 thoughts on “Will Davis Food Co-Op Terminate Its General Manager?”

  1. Jim Frame

    Although I’m a regular Co-op shopper, I have no specific insight into Eric’s performance, but the store seems to be well-run and it meets my needs as a customer. I can say that in the couple of professional dealings I’ve had with Eric, he’s been very easy to work with. This can’t be a pleasant development for him, so whatever the outcome, I wish him well.

  2. SouthofDavis

    David wrote:

    > Board President Stacie Frerichs told the Vanguard on Sunday,
    > “The board will be responding to any comments we receive
    > by Friday of this week.

    Since Steve Pinkerton got a new job in Nevada before Lucas Frerichs could fire him maybe Steve can try and help Eric get a job before Stacie Frerichs can fire him…

    P.S. I have not heard much about the big food from Israel debate that got pretty hot a while back (and at the Co-Op in Sacramento) any idea if this controversy is back?

  3. iPad Guy

    “Board President Stacie Frerichs told the Vanguard on Sunday, ‘The board will be responding to any comments we receive by Friday of this week. We have a board meeting on Monday and members are welcome to give member comment during the agenda item for member comment (item 1.2 at 7:00)’.”

    Wonder about what topics she wants comments? Anyone know what are the issues here?

    Everywhere we turn in Davis, it’s “Off with his head!” Or, her head.

  4. Alan Miller

    The Davis Food COOP has been a central part of my life for decades. ES has been at the helm for 14 years, through incredible growth, remodels, harsh competition coming in, etc. The few dealings I’ve had with him have been positive. I know nothing that about the issues surrounding this decision. Considering I have witnessed the failure of the Berkeley and Palo Alto COOPs, there is reason to be concerned when someone who views the COOP as a business is one their way out. I would love to comment, but I, and apparently no one else publicly or in the general membership, knows why such an intense move is being considered. As this is a membership business, I as a member would like to hear both sides of this expressed, so that we all can comment. Until then, what good are comments taken?

    1. iPad Guy

      We’ve gotten nothing about this issue in the mail, and there’s no agenda posted with the website notice about the board of directors meeting Monday evening. When will we get to figure out our comments so we can provide them to Stacie Frerichs be Her Friday deadline?

  5. Jim Frame

    I spoke with Eric at the store a few minutes ago. I’m concerned that a relatively inexperienced Board of Directors is about to jettison an experienced and successful manager. I sure hope they have a solid Plan B…and that they’re forthcoming with the membership about the reasoning behind their decision.

    The one thing I’m sure of is that they’re throwing one person’s life into turmoil with no explanation other than “your services are no longer required.”

  6. Jim Frame

    Did you ask him why he is getting the axe?

    I did. He said he was completely in the dark, that the Board handed him a letter saying they had decided to go in a different strategic direction and that he was being dismissed without cause. He said there were no unfavorable performance evaluations, his budgets were under control and had been accepted and approved by the Board, and that he hadn’t the faintest idea what kind of changes they were looking for.

    There are always two sides to every story, but I would hope that a co-op would be more forthcoming about the rationale behind a move that’s so disruptive for a long-term employee.

    1. PhilColeman

      Being “more forthcoming” about why and giving some “rationale” for releasing any employee SEEMS LIKE the right thing to do. It shows compassion, and recognition that the terminated employee has his/her life dramatically altered. The terminated employee can potentially grow from the experience, with the employer constructively addressing identified performance weaknesses so that person has the opportunity to become a better employee in any new job.

      None of this happens in today’s employment market–and if it does–it’s regarded as a huge mistake.

      The employer who may do this for the most noblest of intentions, is much more susceptible to litigation, administrative appeals, and summary conviction in the court of public opinion. Stories abound where a compassionate employer has given solace and counsel to a faithful employee as part of the exit process. This act of kindness and basic humanity is later related in a subsequent lawsuit, administrative appeal, interviews with media, or blog posts. The employer’s actions and words are altered, fabricated, or fictionalized to support the appeal or lawsuit. Just about any word or deed in a work environment COULD suggest some form of discrimination or bias, and that’s all that’s really needed to proceed, in multiple venues.

      So, you ask why do we find informed employers simply saying, “Goodby, and thanks,” and nothing more. Now you know. It’s despicable, it utterly cruel. but it’s what a responsible labor lawyer advises you what you should do.

      And I won’t even get into the demeaning “perp walk,’ where a recently terminated employee is marched out of the workplace with a security guard escort for the fear of some act of sabotage by the unhappy former employee. Employers are urged to do that, too.

      Another ripple effect of this process, is a lot of potentially good and capable future managers and administrators decline offers for these positions for these reasons alone.

  7. Rich Rifkin

    As someone who cares and thinks about the English language, the word coöperative” has always interested me, because it is one of the few words I knew growing up which required a diaeresis*. Another one is naïve. A diaeresis always goes over the second of consecutive vowels in order to separate the syllables and thus change the pronunciation of the second vowel.

    It is incorrect to write cooperative or cooperate, because those would be pronounced coop, rhyming with soup or poop. The diaeresis makes a reader realize that the word needs to be pronounced co-OPP-ur-a-tiv.

    Unfortunately, as demonstrated by this article and the comments which follow, most no longer use the diaeresis in words which require them. I think that diacritical mark began to lose favor as handwriting lost out to writing on a keyboard. Since no normal English keyboard comes with an ö or an ï, coöperative became cooperative or co-operative, even though both of those are wrong. Naïve is now mostly written as naive.
    ————————————
    *Some mistakenly think a diaeresis is the English word for an umlaut. However, they are not the same. They are used for entirely different purposes. We never use an umlaut in English, save in words that are stolen from German. Where the diaeresis divides syllables, an umlaut is used in German like an accent mark is used in Spanish. The umlaut alters the pronunciation of a single vowel, and its presence often changes the meaning of the word.

  8. Jack Young

    I served as a Co-op Board Member 1990–1993. I was the board treasurer when we bought the building. My signature is on the purchase documents.
    Board Member 2007–2010 When we took out the loan for the current remodel
    I formed audit committee and served on it 2007-2013
    In 2013 I was awarded the “Order of the Carrot” for exemplary service and invaluable contributions to the Davis Food Coop. Something I am very proud of.

    I am also a CPA formerly with KPMG in Sacramento (KPMG is the largest auditor of Ag co-ops in the US)
    I am Accredited Senior Appraiser and have often provided expert witness testimony to courts of law

    Over the years I’ve worked with some of the largest co-ops in the western US including
    SunMaid Raisins,
    Sun Diamond and
    the Morrow Co Grain Growers in Oregon

    Additionally I’ve personally appraised and / or sold many grocery stores. I’ll also an auctioneer.

    Here is my statement:
    Although I have not been party to any of the board’s discussions regarding this matter, I do have complete trust in the board process and trust that their decision was arrived at very carefully with the best interests of the Davis Food Co-op in mind. As a former board member I found the policy governance personnel process used by the board to be thorough, impartial and fair.
    The board and the General Manager both contractually agreed to follow that process. Based upon that I completely support the board’s decision in this matter as we work together to move the Co-op forward.

  9. Jack Young

    Above is what I read at the BOD meeting on Monday night. I have no interest in any board, staff or mgt position at the DFC. I stated my qualifications prior to making my statement just to let folks know who I am and to qualify my remarks.

    In reviewing the minutes from the closed session it was interesting to learn that the motion to the GM to resign passed UNANIMOUSLY.

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