Two Weeks before Firing Bisch, Executive Team Voted No Confidence in Yolo Food Bank Board of Directors

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Yolo Food Bank’s “Eat Well Yolo” farmers market style food distribution in West Sacramento

The Davis Community was stunned to learn this week of the firing of Michael Bisch as Executive Director of the Yolo Food Bank.  A letter has now surfaced dated May 20, about two weeks before the termination, where Bisch along with seven members of the executive team signed a letter of no confidence in the board.

Here is the letter in its entirety:

We, the Executive Team of Yolo Food Bank (Food Bank), have composed this letter to express our profound disappointment and distress with the current Board of Directors of Yolo Food Bank.

As members of the Food Bank’s Executive Team, we are deeply committed to ensuring that the food insecure residents of Yolo County are represented by leaders who have an unwavering dedication to building an equitable and sustainable local food system.

We submit this letter only after much discussion, as an expression of our “Vote of No Confidence” in the Food Bank Board of Directors and their ability to function as the volunteer leaders of the Food Bank. We understand the severity of this decision and did not arrive at it hastily.

The majority of the members on this Board participated in the near demise of the Food Bank in 2018. It took an extraordinary staff-led effort, including a renewed successful 5.1 million dollar second capital campaign, to save the Food Bank. In recent years, we’ve navigated the COVID-19 pandemic, expanded services three-fold to serve additional communities facing food insecurity as a result of the pandemic, professionalized our workforce, raised staff compensation to living wages, grew the Food Bank donor base, and expanded the Food Bank’s influence and community support.

While the aforementioned has been successful, more recently, we have been disheartened and have had grave concerns regarding the Board of Directors’ professionalism and leadership especially regarding trust, integrity, collaboration, decision making, and vision. The most appalling activities include the Board of Directors’ lack of self governance over conflicts of interest, as well as the Boards’ denigration of staff members’ reputation in communication with community members and elected officials.

A number of board members’ decisions, comments, and actions have been utterly at odds with the organization’s mission and values, and the interest of those we serve. The Board of Directors has shown they are not able to refrain from interfering with the necessary Food Bank operations by placing the interests and personal relationships of individual board members above feeding our community.

The Executive Team has created many opportunities to course correct the relationship between the Board of Directors and Executive Team through ongoing board training and workshops. The Executive Team has failed to see any change. At the most recent Board of Directors meeting on April 27th, some members of the Executive Team witnessed tremendous regression of basic etiquette, respect, curiosity, and trust. In addition to this regression, the Board of Directors broke several Yolo Food Bank policies in their transgressions and failed to uphold our organizational values which are: bold, collaborative, compassionate, creative, curious, genuine, grateful, introspective, nimble, resourceful, visionary.

For the reasons outlined above, we believe the Board of Directors lack a sincere desire to seek meaningful change in improving food security in Yolo County. And we remain concerned about Board retaliation against the Food Bank’s staff members.

In closing, we would like to remind you that we are executive team members of one of the most successful organizations in Yolo County. Our steadfast dedication to the people we serve gives us courage to write this very difficult letter. We implore you to fulfill your duty by working with the Food Bank’s law firm to expeditiously replace the current board with a new board so that we can continue our mission uninterrupted.

Signed by Michael Bisch, Steve Loya, Corkey Mapalo, Maria Segoviano, Valerie Dennis, Katie Schroeder, Genevieve Pyeatt, and Zane Hatfield

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17 thoughts on “Two Weeks before Firing Bisch, Executive Team Voted No Confidence in Yolo Food Bank Board of Directors”

  1. Matt Williams

    From the Food Bank website, the followin are the six Board members.

    Elizabeth Schmitz, Chairperson
    President of TOP, LLC
    Davis, CA

    Matt Mariani, Vice Chairperson
    Partner and VP Marketing Sales, Mariani Nut Company
    Winters, CA

    Ned Spang, Secretary
    Assistant Professor Food Science & Technology and Associate Director Center for Water-Energy Efficiency, UC Davis
    Davis, CA

    Jennifer Engstrom, Treasurer
    Owner, Grocery Outlet – West Sacramento
    West Sacramento, CA

    Donald Hartman
    HR Director, Sutter Health
    Davis, CA

    Kate Stille
    Chief Impact Officer, Nugget Markets
    Davis, CA

    1. Richard_McCann

      There was significant change from the members listed a week before. For example, Dan Ramos was on the board then, and the Chair and Secretary were different.

  2. Sharla Cheney

    Last week there were more, including a couple of local farmers. There was a mass resignation. The explanation was that they were termed out.

      1. Ron Glick

        A new low from the opponents of H.

        Todd do you know Michael Bisch? I know Michael Bisch. Michael Bisch is a friend of mine, and you’re no …

        My guess is that Michael Bisch supports economic development in the community.

    1. Todd Edelman

      not sure whom 

      Given the importance of YFB in the region, that it’s a non-profit, and the associations of both the current and most recent ex-board members with some rather significant local entities… I think it’s appealing to some neutral and trusted entity that will facilitate mediation with as transparent as possible outcomes.

      1. Bill Marshall

        Yes… a third-party would likely be helpful, preferably a professional entity, to facilitate and assist in problem-solving… but, any funding for that would cut into services, since it is unlikely the individual board members would contribute.

  3. Matt Williams

    Last week there were more, including a couple of local farmers. There was a mass resignation. The explanation was that they were termed out.

    .
    It would be helpful to know who those other Board members were.

    Other questions come to mind, but starting with only that one question probably makes sense.  We have plenty of time to peel back the onion.

    1. Mark West

      According to the Internet Archive ‘Wayback Machine’

      The Food Bank website was saved at the end of March, listing the following Board Members

      Tom Muller, Chairperson, Partner Farmer/Muller Ranch, Woodland, CA

      Elizabeth Schmitz, Vice Chairperson, President of TOP, LLC, Davis, CA

      Jim Durst, Secretary, Durst Organic Growers, Esparto, CA

      Jennifer Engstrom, Treasurer, Owner, Grocery Outlet – West Sacramento, West Sacramento, CA

      Donald Hartman, HR Director, Sutter Health, Davis, CA

      Matt Mariani, Partner and VP Marketing Sales, Mariani Nut Company, Winters, CA

      Dan Ramos, VP Ramco Enterprises, West Sacramento, West Sacramento, CA

      Ned Spang, Assistant Professor Food Science & Technology and Associate Director Center for Water-Energy Efficiency, UC Davis, Davis, CA

      Kate Stille, Chief Impact Officer, Nugget Markets, Davis, CA

      Louise Walker, President and CEO First Northern Bank & First Northern Community Bancorp, Dixon, CA

       

      https://archive.org/

      1. Don Shor

        This should give you access: https://www.bizjournals.com/sacramento/news/2022/07/08/yolo-food-bank-bisch-tension-officials-ouster.html?ana=TRUEANTHEMFB_SA&csrc=6398
        This seems to be the key issue:

        Last year, the county hired a consulting team to produce a study assessing the capacity of the region to comply with SB 1383.

        The report recommended giving the Yolo Food Bank and other nonprofits funding to scale up their existing food recovery program.

        The food bank estimated that expanding its operations to recover the rest of the edible food would increase its costs by $2 million per year.

        Based on the recommendations of the capacity study, the county offered the food bank a one-time payment of $386,930.

        When faced with the proposal last September, the food bank rejected the offer.

        Pressure was apparently then exerted, evidently by county officials, on the Food Bank board to implement the food recovery program anyway. The executive staff including Bisch determined that would be fiscally unsustainable. Ultimately he was ousted along with others, and much of the board left. At least, that’s my reading of the situation.
        IMO telling an executive director to implement a program that would undermine the fiscal integrity of an organization — which he had found barely treading water fiscally, and basically fixed — merits outside review.
        I would also note that this exemplifies the unintended consequences of enacting aggressive climate change policies without considering the practical impacts of those policies. The county was told what it had to do by the state and was seeking to achieve the climate goals of food waste retrieval. But it appears to have jeopardized the fiscal integrity of one of the largest, most effective non-profits in the region.

        1. Bill Marshall

          Je d’accord, absolutely… time will tell, but in the meantime, we will support Yolo Food Bank, philosophically and financially…

          “Unintended consequences”, to score ‘political points’, is not “sustainable”…

          Thank you, Don, for the info, context…

        2. Ron Oertel

          Thanks for the quotes, as there was still a paywall in place.

          Pressure was apparently then exerted, evidently by county officials, on the Food Bank board to implement the food recovery program anyway. The executive staff including Bisch determined that would be fiscally unsustainable. Ultimately he was ousted along with others, and much of the board left.

          The board is the one that fired him, not the county.  The reason for that remains unexplained. Apparently, they (for whatever reason) “disagreed” with Bisch.

          But again, I wouldn’t be submitting a letter like the one in the link I posted above, and expect to remain employed.

          I don’t think we’ll get an objective explanation on here.

          I suspect that it’s better for all (including Bisch), that he no longer works there. With that level of animosity toward those who can fire you, it’s not likely to be good for anyone.

          That’s the type of letter you write AFTER you’ve been fired, assuming that you want to burn all remaining bridges.

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