Comments and opinions were shared at the Moonflower Community Cooperative board meeting on Feb. 21, followed by the resignation of one board member.
Held at the Grand County Public Library, the meeting’s turnout was larger than usual for the board, with 22 cooperative owners/members signing in on a clipboard at the start of the 5 p.m. meeting.
As the meeting began, several people in attendance — both board members and attendees — expressed discomfort with attendees recording the meeting, with one person in the audience saying that the meeting would not go forward if it was going to be recorded.
Moonflower Community Cooperative board president Julie Albina said the meeting minutes were being recorded by the board, but that it was “inappropriate” for anyone else to record the meeting.
Albina and board members in attendance said several emails had been received in regard to “recent issues.”
She described Moonflower Community Cooperative as a neighborhood business that became a cooperative business in 2013.
“In the documents, bylaws are legal documents that dictate how we do what we do,” she said, adding that the board does not speak as “one voice” and no single board member speaks on behalf of the board. In addition, the board does not approach employees to talk with them.
The board then opened the meeting to public comments, going around the room — which was packed with people sitting on the floor and tables and standing in the doorway — in a circular fashion.
A former employee, who claimed to have left Moonflower “amicably,” explained that a person who was recently terminated “did not feel listened to or felt safe at the co-op.”
“Admittedly, these are accounts I have heard from only two individuals,” the former employee said.
One cooperative owner/shopper said that after talking with employees, felt the “management structure should be very open and balanced,” and needs overhauling and more accountability.
There was then an engaged discussion on what the current policies regarding the process for terminating an employee at the store. Board members said they couldn’t respond to what happened with a specific incident, which caused several people to speak out at once, emphasizing that they wanted to know the “process” or “policies” and not about any specific incident with one individual.
A board member said the board “will be happy to speak to our attorney” and respond later, but was unable to discuss any policies or procedures during the meeting.
The cooperative’s former community outreach coordinator, Stephanie Hamborsky, spoke up next, saying she was terminated on Feb. 13.
“This discussion is about my termination and someone quitting the next day,” Hamborsky said.
Hamborsky read from a prepared statement to those in attendance at the meeting.
Allegedly, Hamborsky said one of the reasons she believes she was fired is because she was accused of trying to subvert the cooperative workers as employees to unionize. Hamborsky denied any subversion.
“I was given few concrete details about the reasoning behind my termination but was told that a certain individual, or perhaps more than one person, approached the board concerned about my intentions,” Hamborsky said. “One exact phrase used was, ‘reports have been coming in.’ I asked for more information and received nothing.”
Hamborsky alleged other unresolved issues as an employee at the store, and encouraged board members and employees to discuss and work through the concerns together.
Former Moonflower board member Thatcher Vagts urged everyone to work together to resolve differences and to “hold each other and have a cooperative.”
Vagts said he wants to see the cooperative be more welcoming to people and said, “All of you people here today are making incredible strides.”
Moonflower Community Cooperative board member David Schipper informed the Moab Sun News of his resignation the following morning on Feb. 22, but did not explain the reasoning behind his decision to the Moab Sun News.
In response to the board meeting, the board sent the following statement to the Moab Sun News:
“The cooperative holds itself to a high ethical standard and respects every employee, past and present, and therefore, the board cannot comment on confidential personnel issues. However, we can say that staffing decisions are made conscientiously, with Moonflower’s long- and short-term health in mind, and in accordance with Moonflower policies and the law. We are committed to balancing the demands of our charter with the fair treatment of individuals in our family of employees. Because we honor every employee as a valuable human being, letting someone go is never an easy decision. In every instance, great consideration is given to the consequences for all. Moonflower would never let an employee go for unionization activity.”
The next board meeting is scheduled for March 21 at 5 p.m. and the board said it expects to discuss the recent owner survey and discuss the next steps.
(Full disclosure: This reporter has paid a cooperative membership fee to join Moonflower Community Cooperative, but has not participated in any prior meetings or business discussions at the cooperative.)
Former Moonflower employee speaks out
“We are committed to balancing the demands of our charter with the fair treatment of individuals in our family of employees.”