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Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Citizens Co-op members push to overhaul board of directors positions

<p dir="ltr">Citizens Co-op general manager Lisa McNett addresses co-op members Sunday at a membership meeting held at the Civic Media Center downtown. McNett said because board members are stepping down for a June 24 election, the membership has an opportunity to find common ground for the co-op.</p>

Citizens Co-op general manager Lisa McNett addresses co-op members Sunday at a membership meeting held at the Civic Media Center downtown. McNett said because board members are stepping down for a June 24 election, the membership has an opportunity to find common ground for the co-op.

More than 60 Citizens Co-op member-owners voted Sunday to draft a compromise proposal that would appoint four interim members to the co-op’s board of directors and call for two current members to step down.

The proposal will ask the current board to appoint three regular members and one worker-owner to a transitional team that the co-op’s member body approves of. It will also suggest current board members Lucian Kragiel and Bert Gill resign from their positions.

This motion was passed by a majority vote cast at a member meeting held at the Civic Media Center on Mother’s Day. It follows months of tension between the board and co-op members who are no longer comfortable with its leadership. 

Representatives from the board, co-op staff and protesting fired workers all voiced their opinions at the meeting.  

Though the proposal has no legal force or backing in the organization’s bylaws, Ted La Combe said it will show the board of directors the members’ opinions. Because the board didn’t call the vote, the members would have go to court to enforce the proposal, which La Combe said the members aren’t willing to take the time and expense to do. And because members don’t have the authority to appoint board members themselves, the positions have to be filled by the board.

“People don’t often get involved unless they feel strongly that something is wrong,” La Combe said, a prospective transition team member. “Through a process of consensus, we are making a compromise proposal to the board about changing the board makeup.”

Members decided on this course of action after voting down the terms of Lucian Kragiel’s letter of resignation, which he signed May 9. The members called the terms “an ultimatum” and “really unworkable.” The letter stated that upon canceling a vote for a transition team, supporting upcoming board elections and members committing to purchasing at least $25 in goods per week from the co-op, he would resign.

Kragiel’s resignation letter came as a compromise to members who have been calling for the entire board of directors to step down and be replaced, said secretary of the board Rob Brinkman.

Despite the members passing the motion, Brinkman said it could have no lasting effect.

“They can force a vote by submitting petitions to the board of 10 percent of the membership,” he said. However, Sunday’s meeting did “not constitute 10 percent of the membership.”

Brinkman said the meeting was a disappointment and called Kragiel’s resignation a “significant compromise.” 

On May 4, the board passed a motion to advance the board of directors election date from September to June 24. 

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It also put all seven seats up for election. Members will have two weeks to cast their votes for new board members starting June 24.

Citizen Co-op general manager Lisa McNett said because the board of directors is giving up its seats in June, it allows members to have more common ground.

“I see this as a great opportunity to get the membership excited and involved,” she said. “In essence, the board has chosen to leave the future of the store in the hands of the membership as a whole.” 

If the board doesn’t respond to the proposal, some members at the meeting said they would move forward with a vote of no confidence on the current board of directors. 

But based on the way things have evolved, Brinkman said he sees all of this culminating to the membership vote in June.

“The proposal will not do any good,” Brinkman said. “The June 24 election will go forward, and it will be legally binding.”

[A version of this story ran on page 1 on 5/13/2014 under the headline "Citizens Co-op members push to overhaul board of directors positions"]

Correction: This article previously stated Burt Gill was a board member, not Bert, and Tim La Combe was prospective transition team member, not Ted.

Citizens Co-op general manager Lisa McNett addresses co-op members Sunday at a membership meeting held at the Civic Media Center downtown. McNett said because board members are stepping down for a June 24 election, the membership has an opportunity to find common ground for the co-op.

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