Termination of Co-op GM Contract Leads to Questions, Calls to Remove Board

Food Co-op

On Tuesday November 22, 2015, the Davis Food Co-op Board of Directions unanimously voted to end the contract with Tony Mohsenzadegan, who was hired to serve as General Manager in June of this year. This marks the second time in two years that the board has terminated the contract of its GM. In February 2014, the board voted to terminate the contract of longtime GM, Eric Stromberg.

A group calling themselves Help the Co-op has organized to remove the current board of directors and have a petition for members in good standing to sign.

It is important for readers to understand that personnel laws prevent the board from explaining publicly their rationale for the decision and to remember that there may well be two sides to the story.

The Vanguard posts the following communications for the purpose of community information and discussion.

December 2 – Co-Op Board letter to membership

Co-Op-Ltr-1

Letter from Help the Co-Op

What we know so far: On Tuesday, December 2, the Board fired General Manager Tony Mohsenzadegan. The Board’s letter says “Mr. Mohsenzadegan has not met the Board’s expectations in his approaches to communication and planning.” Segments of the Board have now met twice with Staff, but we still haven’t heard any concrete reason for their action other than Tony being too hard to work with.

This is the second General Manager fired by the Board in two years. Since GMs are contract employees, each termination means a payout under the contract. The Board ran a national search to replace GM Eric Stromberg right up to the point where we held all-staff meetings to interview the finalists, then did not like the results and ran a second national search to hire Mr. Mohsenzadegan, at a cost in excess of $30,000. While the details of payouts to GMs are confidential, our estimate for the total cost is in excess of $200,000. Since the Board now proposes to launch another search, that number will increase.

Meanwhile, the Board has failed to carry out other, critical, duties including producing Amended and Restated Bylaws that are desperately needed, or addressing issues which leave the Co-op open to significant liability. They have placed an item regarding “Board Compensation” on the agenda for the December 7 Board Meeting, although our boards have always been volunteer up until now.

As Member Owners, we reluctantly have to believe that the current Board is simply not fit to serve, let alone to select our next General Manager. We request that the entire current Board resign in favor of a Caretaker Board that will commit to rebuilding our Co-op before it’s too late.

December 8 – Response from Co-Op Board

Co-op Letter

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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.

Related posts

69 Comments

    1. Mslim

      Julie Cross is the figurehead, the proposed new board would be;

       

       

      Brian CharnAnn Carroll, Julie Cross, Debbie Eernissee, Randi Famula, Christine Nourot, Rachel Petit, Nicole Rabaud and Keiko Yoshimoto.

      It’s a big conflict of interest and their complaints are invalid. They were the favorites.

  1. ryankelly

    If you read the Co-op Board minutes, you can see that there was some difficulty with the GM providing financial information for 3 months in a row.  The Board went over his written obligation to provide this information at one meeting, citing the exact wording in his contract.  It sounds like Tony was good at marketing, but a poor administrator.

    1. dlemongello

      I see no evidence that he was good at marketing, (except maybe catering) managing staff or administrating financials .  He imposed what I would call a militaristic style at a food COOP in a liberal town. It was totally inappropriate.  I am not a coddler, I assure you, but he was a jerk.  I will say one thing, I believe the board did him a huge disservice along with a disservice to our COOP, because now he is out of a job because he was a bad fit, and they should have been the ones to see what he was.  I am no great intuitive judge of people but it was so obvious to me who Tony is when we all got to meet and question him before they hired him.  After that I tried to wait and see how it would go, hoping to be pleasantly surprised, but if anything it was even worse that I expected.

      1. ryankelly

        Sales appear to be turning around.  The store looks better and marketing staff appear to be the staff members voicing support.    I never really met him, so other than that evidence, I don’t know what else to offer.  I’m curious about how you would describe a militaristic style.

        1. dlemongello

          Functioning on fear rather than cooperation, authoritative power trip, pettiness in level of structured rules, ruling by showing people you don’t trust them.

        2. Angry Tomato

          He hung a Navy SEAL bell in his office for about a month before he was asked to take it down. During “Hell Week” in SEAL training, you are given the option to ring a bell when you want to quit. The bell signifies defeat. Basically he wanted to intimidate all of us into thinking that working at the Co-Op is akin to SEAL training and wanted to shame anyone that “couldn’t hack it”, i.e. wanted to quit.

          (it’s worth mentioning that not only did he keep the bell in his office, he took it out and rang it himself upon hearing the news of his termination)

  2. Tia Will

    It is important for readers to understand that personnel laws prevent the board from explaining publicly their rationale for the decision and to remember that there may well be two sides to the story.”

    While I understand the constraints that the board members have in discussing their rationale for employee management decisions, I think that there is plenty of room here to move beyond  “we are doing a good job” vs “no you are doing a bad job” with few specifics to support either claim.

    In addition to SODAs questions, I am wondering:

    From the point of view of the board:

    1. Does Ms.Tausiczik qualify and would she ( or another member of the current management team)  be interested in the position of General Manager thus saving the time, energy and potential cost of yet another nationwide search ?

    2.  “being too hard to work with.” seems to me to be a very subjective criteria. While the board cannot elaborate, I am wondering if other co-op employees are volunteers would be willing to weigh in on this issue either in agreement or opposition. This is not a voyeuristic request on my part. I am a long time co-op member, initially a volunteer when I first hit town in 1979, and as a paying member more recently and I care about the well being of the Co-Op where we still do the majority of our food shopping.

    3. I would like to see the Board address the other complaints of the Help the Co-Op Group including the issue of the bylaws and the allegation of putting the Co-Op at legal risk. It would seem to me that these are assertions that the Board could and should address.

    4. Given the current controversy, do the Board Members see this as an optimal time to introduce the concept of changing from a volunteer to a compensated board ?  If so, what would the rationale be ?

    From the point of view of the Help the Co-Op group:

    1. Can you be specific about the bylaws that you feel have “desperate need” of revision and why the urgency ?

    2. What are the specific issues that you believe leave the Co-Op open to “significant liability” ?

    3. Assuming the resignation ( or ouster) of the current Board, how would you suggest that a “caretaker board” be selected ?  Please be specific.

    4. Are you opposed to the idea of a compensated board on principle or are you merely opposed to compensation for the board as currently constituted ?

    1. Scheney

      Tia – I went to the Board meeting and actually spoke during public comment (something I find terrifying).  The issue of Board compensation was unclear in the agenda, but it became clear when that item came up.  The Board members are currently compensated by giving each the status of “Super Worker” which gives them a substantial discount on purchases at the Co-op.  Since some of the Board members have families and others are single, the value of this discount varies from Board member to Board member.  (This discount could be abused by Board members purchasing items for others or for their work, etc.)  It was proposed to discontinue this practice and instead just pay the Board the equivalent of $50 per month, which would actually be less than the average value of the discount currently being given.  It would apply to future Boards, not the current Board.  I talked to Ben Pearl after the meeting and recommended that items on the agenda have some sort of attachment which would describe better the issue being discussed, so that people would understand prior to the meeting.

    2. Mslim

      In regards to your first question, Ms. Tausczik would make for an ideal general manager temporarily, she can help to rebalance our financials that Tony fucked up, and treat staff with respect, she knows how it works and how it’s supposed to work.

       

      Regarding your second question, that’s not the only reason for his termination, true, he was really cruel and a pathological liar, he also couldn’t hang financially. He failed to give a budget since sometime in October, and sales were down, both noticibly and documentedly, we ARE recovering, though it took a lot out of us dealing with him. He slandered the board during a mandatory staff meeting and called us all lame, boring, because at 5:00 am we weren’t peppy enough for him, though he just sat there grumpily. He tried to make us do jumping jacks, and he said the board was a bunch of idiots and tried to turn us against them by proposing a $15.00/hr. starting wage and saying the board doesnt want that to happen… It can’t happen and if you can’t even provide a budget in your 4-6th month, how the fuck are you gonna raise wages that high?

      He had some major favoritism issues too. He hired his friends, gave them all higher wages than us, even going as far as to bullying a manager to quit and inserting his friend, Brett, in charge and prompting an anonymous worker to hire an attorney. Brett caused a huge amount of staff grievances, and formal complaints became normal. Against Tony too, tons of people wrote them because of this hostile work environment, you can’t cuss out workers on the floor, or call service men “Mister *insert company name.*” Ridiculous.

      To top it all of, the managers in charge of  ‘Help The Co-op’ are the same ones he used to treat very kindly and specially, they also happened be the ones sucking up. If you didn’t suck up, you’d have a red target on your back, and would be walking on glass. He hired a personal assistant, and talked about taking people on trips with him to Seattle and such, guess who that’d be? His favorites. They argue sales were at an all time high and things were immaculate, NOPE, they were lower than before and we only have more money due to having paid off our renovation bills, or at least are paying less.

      He was a walking lawsuit and a bully, he showed his muscles off to unwilling staff and bragged about how he has killed people, and when he talked to women, he checked them out!

      He was hard to work with, but also harassing, favoritist, bad manager, bad financed, bad person. All we have are three different budgets and no accurate ones.

      There were also a lot of questionable firings, and he wouldn’t give people their two weeks.Adam, his other thug, he liked to cuss people out too, causing our best employee, our literal best customer server to quit.  People freak out when she comes in, customers and workers alike.

      The Co-op feels more Co-opy now, and make no mistake, ANY opposition to the board and their good decision, are from people who he treated specially, the guy who helped get Tony the job, he pretty much was given backrubs. And I couldn’t goto HR, I would have been retaliated against. The Board of Directors was our last hope and they delivered. THE BOARD andBERS ARE THE ONLY ONES WHO REALLY DO DELIVER AND GET SHIT DONE AND DONE WELL!

      As for your third question, they were vague in what they wanted, and honestly, they’ve been embarrassing themselves as of yet. ‘Help The Co-op’ claims that we have him $200,000, they may have edited that, but no, we gave him $10,000. Big difference, Oligarchs. They want to insert themselves as directors, namely, Julie Cross, who happens to be the Marketing Director, and Keiko who happens to be the Human Resources Manager. Assumingly, they’ll rehire Tony and BOOM!!! You’ve got yourself a monopoly. Not Co-op like at all. Tony’s dream would come true, the people who eat his shit and think it tastes good are in charge, and he’d own the place. Horrible horrible fate and we’d all quit FOR SURE. Maybe they didn’t change the bylaws because they were too busy? Maybe they were fine how they were!? A lot of them haven’t been updated for a while (take a look), why? Because there is no need. Employee abuse? Um, hello, they saved our asses, Tony abused us, he couldn’t even smile or say hi and he operated things like a tyrant!

      Did I mention a coworker for an unposted promotion?

      And they probably got rid of that governance system because it wasn’t useful? Maybe Brian Charn doesn’t understand how things work, their argument has been weak and fear mongering all along.

      Finally, the Board Compensation controversy was just another piece of propaganda used by Julie Cross, as it only applies to the next board and has nothing to do with any of this.

       

      The only controversy is caused by people who got treated like royalty in return for ego stroking. Tony was horrible and the board is good

       

    3. Mslim

      In regards to your first question, Ms. Tausczik would make for an ideal general manager temporarily, she can help to rebalance our financials that Tony destroyed, and treat staff with respect, she knows how it works and how it’s supposed to work.
      Regarding your second question, that’s not the only reason for his termination, true, he was really cruel and a pathological liar, he also couldn’t hang financially. He failed to give a budget since sometime in October, and sales were down, both noticeably and documentedly, we ARE recovering, though it took a lot out of us dealing with him. He slandered the board during a mandatory staff meeting and called us all lame, boring, because at 5:00 am we weren’t peppy enough for him, though he just sat there grumpily. He tried to make us do jumping jacks, and he said the board was a bunch of idiots and tried to turn us against them by proposing a $15.00/hr. starting wage and saying the board doesn’t want that to happen… It can’t happen and if you can’t even provide a budget in your 4-6th month, how are you gonna raise wages that high? He also stood on a ladder and made us watch him drink coffee, which clearly is rude, and acted as though we should be gracious for such. He also would hang out, drinking, with his management posse’, and the staff party felt more like his party… Boring.
      He had some major favoritism issues too. He hired his friends, gave them all higher wages than us, even going as far as to bullying a manager to quit and inserting his friend, Brett, in charge and prompting a worker to hire an attorney. Brett caused a huge amount of staff grievances, and formal complaints became normal. Against Tony too, tons of people wrote them because of this hostile work environment, you can’t cuss out workers on the floor, or call service men “Mister *insert company name.*” Ridiculous.
      To top it all of, the managers in charge of  ‘Help The Co-op’ are the same ones he used to treat very kindly and specially, they also happened be the ones sucking up. If you didn’t suck up, you’d have a red target on your back, and would be walking on glass. He hired a personal assistant, and talked about taking people on trips with him to Seattle and such, guess who that’d be? His favorites. They argue sales were at an all time high and things were immaculate. NOPE, they were lower than before and we only have more money due to having paid off our renovation bills, or at least are paying less.
      He was a walking lawsuit and a bully, he showed his muscles off to unwilling staff and bragged about how he has killed people, and when he talked to women, he checked them out!
      He was hard to work with, but also harassing, favoritist, bad manager, bad financer, bad person. All we have are three different budgets and no accurate ones.
      There were also a lot of questionable firings, and he wouldn’t give people their two weeks.Adam, his other thug, he liked to cuss people out too, causing our best employee, our literal best customer server to quit.  People freak out when she comes in, customers and workers alike.

      The Co-op feels more Co-opy now, and make no mistake, ANY opposition to the board and their good decision, are from people who he treated specially, the guy who helped get Tony the job, he pretty much was given backrubs. And I couldn’t goto HR, I would have been retaliated against. The Board of Directors was our last hope and they delivered. THE BOARD MEMBERS ARE THE ONLY ONES WHO REALLY DO DELIVER AND GET THINGS DONE AND DONE WELL! They really saved us here.

      As for your third question, they were vague in what they wanted, and honestly, they’ve been embarrassing themselves as of yet. ‘Help The Co-op’ claims that we have him $200,000, they may have edited that, but no, we gave him $10,000. Big difference, Oligarchs. They want to insert themselves as directors, namely, Julie Cross, who happens to be the Marketing Director, and Keiko who happens to be the Human Resources Manager. Assumingly, they’ll rehire Tony and BOOM!!! You’ve got yourself a monopoly. Not Co-op like at all. Tony’s dream would come true, the people who eat his shit and think it tastes good are in charge, and he’d own the place. Horrible horrible fate and we’d all quit FOR SURE. Maybe they didn’t change the bylaws because they were too busy? Maybe they were fine how they were!? A lot of them haven’t been updated for a while (take a look), why? Because there is no need. Employee abuse? Um, hello, they saved us, Tony abused us, he couldn’t even smile or say hi and he operated things like a tyrant! Did I mention a coworker received an unposted promotion? And they probably got rid of that governance system because it wasn’t useful? Maybe Brian Charn doesn’t understand how things work, their argument has been weak and fear mongering all along.
      Finally, the Board Compensation controversy was just another piece of propaganda used by Julie Cross, as it only applies to the next board and has nothing to do with any of this.
      The only controversy is caused by people who got treated like royalty in return for ego stroking. Tony was horrible and the board is good. Things are finally feeling much happier and customers are getting the service they pay for. We’ve been picking up a little business wise, and management is much kinder. It’s just eaier to work with everyone and get things done.

  3. Frankly

    I will use this situation to explain something that many on this blog and in this town do not seem to understand because they lack experience with it.

    Generally, the knowledge, skill and performance requirements for successfully managing a business with employees makes it one of the most challenging jobs to successfully recruit for and fill.

    In addition to having a mastery of many of the disciplines and work processes in the functional organization, there are that myriad of administrative details that also require expertise.  And the administrative bar keeps getting raised by the growing bureaucratic monster of government as each successive politician adds more crappy tax and regulatory legislation trying to make a name for him/herself.

    Lastly, employees today… especially younger employees… after having been pampered through their adult years by their doting helicopter parents… are in need of boot camp-style professional development.  But they are also little wilting flowers that will file a grievance for performance counseling that is thing less than 100% them feeling shared sympathy for their “pain”.

    Then there are the politics of egos to deal with.  There is the board members.  There is that ambitious line of subordinated managers.   Dealing with ego politics requires a perpetual one-legged tiptoe through the tulips while grasping sharp objects that can be used strategically and expertly to cut down weeds and clear paths.

    And then when luck happens and a good manager is located and hired, a crappy board will cause them to flee.

    Bottom line.  Get used to seeing a revolving door of management candidates.

    1. Alan Miller

      I will use this situation to explain something that many on this blog and in this town do not seem to understand because they lack experience with it.

      Your conclusions in your rant may be true in some situations, not all, and may apply to some degree in this one, but not wholly or even significantly, and your rant is really general and over-arching, and regarding the COOP we know little due to privacy laws and policies regarding termination.  Therefore, you rant serves your desire to express your opinion on some stuff, and adds nothing to the discussion of what is actually going on at the COOP, which is important to many members.

      Are you a member of the Davis Food COOP?

    2. Tia Will

      Frankly

      And then when luck happens and a good manager is located and hired, a crappy board will cause them to flee.”

      I am not even sure what situation you are referring to as the launching point for your post. From what has been reported it looks like neither of the past two managers fled….my understanding is that both were let go by the board.

    3. Don Shor

      Lastly, employees today… especially younger employees… after having been pampered through their adult years by their doting helicopter parents… are in need of boot camp-style professional development.  But they are also little wilting flowers that will file a grievance for performance counseling that is thing less than 100% them feeling shared sympathy for their “pain”.

      This has not been my experience with “employees today…especially younger employees.”

  4. dlemongello

    First of all, being a fiscal conservative and liberal as hell in every other way it makes me sick that the board is wasting this kind of money searching for candidates and hiring the wrong one, ESPECIALLY when an excellent known entity is sitting right in from of them.  They rejected her when she applied the first time and have now asked her to be interim GM AGAIN.  The grass is not greener folks, Beth got us through a very hard period after Eric left and deserves the job.

    Here is a letter I recently sent to the board, it addresses a few other issues on this subject as well:

    Dear Board,

    In hiring Tony, as far as I can see, you got exactly what I expected.  You got exactly the person I saw at his presentations under the tent; he was arrogant and incompetent. In hiring him, frankly, I never understood this choice, but tried to give it a chance   It has come to my attention that there is now some organizing going on to unseat/recall all of you.  I do not support this action, however I would like to see you do a MUCH better job, especially after this experience, in selecting a GM.There is always the unknown in this process no matter how diligent the search or analysis of the potential pick.  I strongly recommend you offer the job to Beth; although she is not perfect, no one is. With Beth, you know what you are getting.  She is totally dedicated to our store and has done a great job of stepping in each time we needed an interim GM. She is VERY diligent, competent, caring and knows what is needed, and she accomplished a lot of this when she was interim GM before.It’s time for some stability along with desired growth in realizing the full potential of the G St store.

    Sincerely,

    Donna Lemongello

    1. Davis Progressive

      this is very illuminating.  people keep telling me that there are two sides to the story here, but the reality is there are two sides of the same coin.  either the board screwed up by hiring the wrong person or they screwed up by firing the wrong person.  they can’t have it both ways.

        1. ryankelly

          Sales were rapidly declining and the Co-op was headed toward insolvency.  The previous GM was a nice guy, but wasn’t taking any actions to turn things around.

        2. outtadavis

          ryankelly-

          What do you base these assumptions on? Those are some pretty strong assertions that can damage someone’s reputation. Do you have the evidence to back them up?

        3. outtadavis

          ryankelly –

          While it has been a while since the first GM was fired – I remember some staff saying that after many long months of fighting back from two strong competitors moving in – Trader Joes and Whole Foods – that sales were beginning to rebound and things were starting to move in the right direction.  Then the GM (Stromberg) was let go and sales dipped again.  I never heard from anyone staff or board that the Co-op was ever anywhere near or headed toward insolvency.

      1. dlemongello

        The COOP was never headed toward insolvency as in getting anywhere close to it.  Things had to change to address the added competition and the numbers were not as rosy as they had been for many years, but it was starting to turn around after some months of lower revenues. It’s a dynamic situation of course and there will always need to be balancing going on.

    2. outtadavis

      I had looked at the link for the petition and came away with the impression that Tony was supported by most staff.  What you have commented reflects other views that I have heard.  In any case, there are always two sides.

      One important correction – Eric did not leave.  His contract was terminated much like it sounds this one’s was.

    3. Misanthrop

      I don’t know who should be the next GM but the last pick was terrible. I too heard his presentation under the tent and came away shocked by his arrogance. I looked up the company he previously worked for and found statements similar to the ones he made on the company website. It wasn’t hard to figure out that he oversold himself and his abilities.

      The board erred in hiring him and you could see morale decline in the workforce at the store. The workers weren’t talking about it but I could mention things about the new GM while checking out and tell they were unhappy from  the reaction I would get. To their credit the board realized their mistake and changed course relatively quickly. Rather than a new board immediately I would prefer the normal election cycle because there are probably board members who didn’t support the hire and were outvoted. I don’t think they should be kicked out for being outvoted.

      1. dlemongello

        All board members at the time supported the hire, it was unanimous, but there are a few new board members now who were not on the board during the hire. They were part of the unanimous vote to terminate.  I doubt I’ll ever understand Tony’s hire.

        1. Angry Tomato

          Tony was young… That was his biggest selling point. He made it seem like he was this wildly-successful manager at age 34 and we ate it up. Sure enough, we got an entitled brat who would rather act like a child than a man.

  5. dlemongello

    You mean Tony is supported by some of the remaining staff, then there are the ones he fired or left because of his way of doing things (I’m putting that nicely), and the ones who stayed in spite of it all.

    1. tj

      That explains why some familiar faces at the check out counters have disappeared.  Really nice and helpful people have left, or were forced to leave.

      Some of the new checkers are not very pleasant, and not very adept.

      1. Angry Tomato

        We had our best cashier at the time put in her 2 weeks after Tony’s belligerent and possibly-hungover speech to the staff, which will probably go down in history as Tony’s worst moment at the Co op. Two nights before he was drinking BEER in front of half the employees as he made another speech. Yes, the GM was imbibing alcohol in the store. Probably wasn’t the first time either.

        1. outtadavis

          From your posts you seem to be a long time employee.  Did you agree with the past Board’s termination of Stromberg?  Do you see what is happening now and that action as totally separate or related?

        2. Angry Tomato

          @outtadavis
          1) Most likely, but I can’t say for sure. By then Tony had dodged the budget deadline multiple times and was lying to the staff that the Board was “stonewalling” all of the awesome things he had planned for us.

          2) Stromberg is a nice guy but ultimately was terrible with how he handled the Co-Op finances. One of his last acts was using our 2013 bonus money to pay taxes on store renovations from over 5 years ago. He handed out money to several community outreach programs and the Teaching Kitchen all during a 3+ year wage freeze when no staff were getting raises or cost-of-living adjustments. He was throwing our money outward in all directions, everywhere except the workers themselves.

          I think had he been given a little more time he may have turned things around, but the Board saw it as too little too late and I think most of the staff felt the same way. Stromberg was a thousand times nicer and easier to deal with than Tony but he still had his faults as a GM. People were seriously frustrated by the wage freeze and the overall consensus (from my POV) was that Stromberg was not doing enough to help the workers.

    2. Mslim

      As a staffer, I hate him, but I love the Co-op, it’s like loving the people and land of a country but hating the oppressive government tyranny. I almost migrated. Very happy with the changes.
      I’m sure some people liked Stalin, too!

  6. Alan Miller

    I have been a fully-vested member of the COOP for 30-years and I attended the board meeting on Monday.   Immediately before the meeting, I received a couple of phone calls from fellow members who were concerned and had differing views.  Coincidentally, I was on my way out the door to shop at the COOP.  I stopped by the meeting, hoping to better understand the situation of the general manager.

    The meeting was surprisingly calm and professional considering the rumors of a call to terminate the board in front of us.  There were a lot of employees in the room (a few dozen?), and a handful of non-employee COOP members.  Most people passed when called upon to speak during public comment which opened the meeting (the termination itself was not on the agenda).  Several people did speak, and the common thread was concern for the COOP no matter the angle people took on recent events.  Many employees were there regarding the board compensation item, which I believe was misinterpreted — understandably so — as increasing board compensation immediately following the termination.

    The one person who did speak about board termination was I believe an employee and spoke for a long time, very emotionally and dramatically.  She started off reasonably about the need to build bonds over time with new managers and how much the new manager had done for the store.  However, at the end she stood up and walked over to yhe end of the board table, leaned in to the board, and dramatically stated (paraphrasing), “You can fix this, you can bring him back, you can apologize, you can admit your mistake; you can save your jobs”.  This seemed to me completely impractical:  I cannot imagine a board reversing a unanimous vote and rehiring someone who was just terminated; nor, I imagine, would anyone want to work for a board that just fired them and then changed its mind.  It came across to me as an oddly-presented request/demand/threat.

    Had a group of board members banded together and terminated the GM in a 5-4 split, I could understand a call to recall the five.  However, for nine board members to have unanimously decided to terminate the GM, there must have been a very good reason.  These nine board members were not hired in a slate or set up to run the COOP under some conspiracy — these are nine, probably very different individuals, all of whom were chosen by election (however low the turnout), and came to the same conclusion.  That says something.

    Yes, it is rough on the COOP changing GM’s yet again.  I imagine that each of the board members are feeling to some degree humble and/or embarrassed at having had to radically reverse their initial decision (yes, I am speculating).  However, attempting to recall an ENTIRE, elected board sounds like a very destructive path to go down.  These board members cannot discuss certain aspects of the termination publicly due to 1) labor law; and 2) to avoid the COOP (all of us) getting sued.  Also, they were elected, so to recall all nine is to ask active members to recall people they voted for and in many cases may be friends with.  Also, this appears to be more a grievance between some employees and the board rather than a grievance between non-employee members and the board.  What may seem best for some employees is not always what is best for an organization.

    I share the frustration with those in the room that members cannot know the details of the termination, and share with all who attended concern for the future of the COOP.  I caution those attempting a recall — of nine persons simultaneously — what a destructive, a probably fruitless, endeavor that would be.  Even if accomplished, this would not likely return the former GM, as the membership would still be left without knowing the reasons why all nine board members chose termination.

    I have great concern when our food COOP goes through a crisis.  The COOP in my hometown of Palo Alto over-extended itself and went out of business.  I am not sure in that case if the final verdict was the board or the GM was to blame, or both (anyone know?).  The Berkeley Food COOP went out of business.  One of my favorite restaurants, the Blue Mango, a cooperative, went out of business (and the location will soon be Blondie’s Pizza & Nightclub – yuck!).  The point is the COOP must adhere to sane business practices and work together to stay competitive, lest we are left with Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s in Davis as our main food sources – not a pleasant thought to me.  Recalling nine people at once, nine of the ten who cared enough to volunteer to serve — I don’t see that as a constructive path.

    Such a total recall would be painful, take time to implement, and I doubt would be successful.  The board was, at this last board meeting, forming committees to recruit board members for the next election cycle.  Recent events will no doubt inspire people to run for the board and a wider range of values may thus be represented, without the pain of the proposed wholesale recall.

  7. Angry Tomato

    The fact that the “Save the Co-Op” group demands the resignation of Vincent Ortiz from the Board — a DFC employee who was not allowed to vote in Tony’s termination because of conflict of interest — says it all. The group is nothing more than Tony’s brainwashed buddies reacting in a knee-jerk fashion without getting their facts straight first. I don’t think I’ve been as embarrassed and disgusted as I am right now seeing fellow coworkers pit themselves against each other in such a ridiculous fashion, many of whom I considered to be much more sensible than they apparently are.

    Tony failed at his duties the moment he didn’t finish the 2016 budget on time. The Board gave him several more tries and he still failed to deliver. This really should be the end-all to every argument on this subject; he literally failed to perform at his job. You can verify this for yourself in the Board minutes. Oh right… there’s not a single employee who regularly attends the meetings. Apparently that’s enough to claim the Board “does nothing”, right? Wrong.

    The $200k-severance claim is also made up. Tony was paid two months worth of severance which is a little less than $10k, not $200k. The group offers no substantial claim as to where the number came from; they just made this number up and ran with it. Propaganda, folks!

    I see comments including former-Chef Brett, one of Tony’s buddies,  completely deluded into thinking the Board wanted Brett and Adam “gone”, when in reality Tony is the only person who said that. Did I mention Tony is a pathological liar? Maybe some of you missed him talk proudly about his military tours in Iraq and Afghanistan…. when in reality he served a year as a chef on a navy boat. Also he claims on his Linkedin that he was the “CEO” of the Co-Op… ’nuff said.

    DFC Employees in the group: get your heads out of your asses. You are doing more to damage the Co-Op with this group than help it. Tony was a mistake – it’s time to move on, not take more steps backward. We need constructive actions, not destructive ones. And for God’s sake, GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT.

    1. pguy

      Thank you for mentioning the lies about his military combat service. He told me the first day he met me that he had served two tours in Afghanistan in Special Ops. As a person who served in the Army, I thanked him for his service. Later I started hearing stories from other staff about his having 1700 airborne jumps, having worked for Blackwater, etc etc. it started to sound suspicious, so I did a public records check and discovered he was only in the service from June of 1999 to August of 2000. Out of the service before US involvement in Afghanistan even began. In military circles lying about combat service is absolutely some of the most shameful behavior.

  8. Michael Harrington

    I have been a Coop Member since about 1995, and I have done most of my family’s weekly shopping there.

    I love the selection, but the prices are really high.  I rationalize it, supporting my local store, Coops are a good thing, etc etc.

     

    But this article really got my attention.  I have been wondering the past several years as to why the prices are so much higher than anywhere else … and the gap was widening … and now I learn about hiring debacles, expensive searches, contract buyouts, etc etc.  You have to sell a ton of very expensive apples and milk to pay for all that chaos!

     

    This sounds all bad to me … and I love the store and the floor staff I see.

  9. dlemongello

    I would have to do an actual comparison, but my impression is not that the prices are different from anywhere else.  And unless you mean the prices are recently higher, all the chaos was only recently. They have margins they set and they buy from a buyers group so the costs are competitive with large volume purchases.  Also, almost all the produce is organic.  That said, I already commented above that these personnel transactions are a huge waste and really bad.

    1. Jim Frame

      Tiny data point, but I just sent the boy out for a few groceries, and he went to Nugget instead of the Co-op.  The same gallon of milk that I buy at the Co-op for $4.99 was $5.49 at Nugget.

      1. Alan Miller

        Yup.

        If you want even higher prices, try SacNatch (Sacramento Food COOP) or Hole in Your Wallet Foods.

        While common goods are cheaper elsewhere, for the specialty organic and bulk stuff, our COOP is quite reasonable. And has a great variety.

  10. Jim Leonard

    FYI: The Davis Food Coop is not a coop. To be a coop, it must abide by certain principals, one of which is membership democracy, which was violated by the board in 2010. Members had gathered enough signatures to bring, according to the bylaws, an issue forth for a vote among the general membership. The board stopped the vote from happening.

    Thus, in 2010, membership in the Coop ceased to exist new “memberships” were fraudulently sold. Furthermore, the Coop continued to claim its tax status as a coop and get the tax benefits from being one even though the claim was false.

    So, all controversies, since the charade began in 2010, are, upon analysis, void of purpose as well.

    I was a member of the Coop but quit over the board’s violation of my membership rights. I encourage the “Coop” to reform as a true coop, although I do not know how it can make such a reform.

    I would love to be part of an honest cooperative, filled with integrity and respect for its membership. If the Coop reforms voluntarily or is forced to do so because of pressure from the government, I will happily rejoin and support it.

    Until then, I can only encourage all Coop members to quit and stop “pledging allegiance” to a dead organization.

    1. Angry Tomato

      Just because the Board didn’t address an issue doesn’t invalidate what the Co-op is. It’s still a member-owned store.

      Do you remember why the Board turned it down?

    2. Alan Miller

      Members had gathered enough signatures to bring, according to the bylaws, an issue forth for a vote among the general membership.

      What issue would that be, sir, HMMMMM?!?!?  Why don’t you spell it out instead of avoiding it.

  11. PhilColeman

    “It is important for readers to understand that personnel laws prevent the board from explaining publicly their rationale for the decision and to remember that there may well be two sides to the story.”

    Well there are certainly two (or more) sides to this story and it sure got ugly at warp speed. After all the conjecture has run its course, we might all be well served if we return to the causal problem here, and the innumerable instances before.

    The introductory column quote referencing constraining personnel laws is true. Employers are not allowed to say exactly why they terminated somebody. Unless there is a law suit that goes to trial years later, we never hear “two stories.”

    The current longstanding personnel secrecy laws were well intended; terminated employees are viewed in a bad light by their very involuntary walk out the door. Employers can’t add to the stigma of the departed employee by any form of public posturing, even when the reasons are fully merited and could withstand any administrative or legal scrutiny.

    Terminated employees or anybody else have no similar constraint (except for the rare instance where they sign a termination agreement saying they will remain silent). Anybody else, including co-workers, relatives, and self-proclaimed authorities can publicly say whatever they want. And, boy, do they!

    When the terminated-employee protection statutes were enacted many years ago, we had no Social Media. Personnel terminations–even from public agencies–were much more discreet, and public conjecture as to “why” was absent or with little public awareness or discussion.

    Now take this Co-op fiasco as just the latest example of what happens in our contemporary society, with the Social Media in full bloom. Recall the many disparaging characterizations directed towards the manager and the firing entity, emanating from concealed sources who have not been vetted, and then recklessly and openly shared among thousands of local citizenry. The employee and the hiring/firing agency are both close to being demonized, and we just started. It makes the current personnel protection laws designed to prevent this a complete farce.

    So, OK, Phil, what’s the answer? Waiting for you to asked. We partially remove the statutory gag-order from employers who terminate an employee. Only in instances where an employee termination reaches a level of public awareness to where it becomes newsworthy, then the employer is allowed to fully detail the rationale for the termination. Legislation revision would be required, and the “newsworthy” threshold would have to be detailed. But at least it would now be a fair fight in this this ever growing Court of Public Opinion. Employers could get their side published and do away with the blind conjecture that fills their silent voice now.

    Equally important to note, those disgruntled employees who now go public with impunity, will now have to consider what will happen in that Court of Public Opinion if the former boss can also speak freely and show documentation. I promise you, you’ll see less of that.

     

     

    1. Mslim

      Too bad the employees don’t have more avenues for complaint, eh Phil? What do you recommend for THAT? See, when employers and fired higher-ups rule the show, as they always do, the smaller opinions get ignored and that important well of information is lost. This is our only opportunity to speak up, especially if the HR is sympathetic with the boss and retaliation may happen… Labor Department? Taking it to an extreme, but we need more ground-level employee protections and social media and this platform supplements that, otherwise, you have belligerent managers and shushed boards ruling the show, bullshit.

  12. Mslim

    Yeah, so I worked with him on the ground level, sales are down, he and his friends he inserted would cuss people out sometimes in front of customers, he was favoritistic and everyone hated it unless they sucked up, it was miserable, people quit and I was so close to leaving, WE ALL REJOICED when we heard of his firing except for certain managers of course. It was bad, now it’s good 🙂

  13. pguy

    I am a 20 year member , former employee and current super worker. I am in the store every day, either shopping or working, most of my friends work and shop there. Tony was an unqualified disaster. Huge ego and a pathological liar. He fired and hired without any semblance of a process and generally felt he would/could do as he pleased. One day I commented to him that all the managers were out on the floor really working hard and he said, with a laugh, they were all afraid for their jobs. He circulated an org chart that had him on the top in huge bold letters next to the title “CEO”, everyone below was in tiny print. The guy had/has no idea how to manage or lead in an egalitarian environment like a coop and should under no circumstances be brought back. If he returns, I will be, sadly, taking my $20k in grocery business elsewhere. Do not be fooled by this group who wants to recall the board. Most of those involved in this effort where his favorite employees and they would love nothing more than to bring him back. The rest of the so-called issues are a smoke screen for their real agenda

    1. C.Forkas

      I am a 30+ year member of the COOP and I had high hopes that Tony would bring a fresh young approach in a very competitive environment.  Sadly, it’s clear that he did not work out that way. It’s time to move forward and find a new General Manager.
       

       

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for