As I slowly relaunch the coopgeek blog, I find that I have a rather large backlog of items to cover. But one item really needs some attention.So before I turn my blog into a serial for release of sections of my paper, I want to take care of some seriously overdue business. Something stinks in Davis, Calif. and it has taken me entirely too long to weigh in.
David Thompson, a Cooperative Hall of Fame inductee, writer and president of the Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation, has long been calling the cooperative movement’s attention to the alleged misdeeds of the Davis Area Cooperative Housing Association (DACHA). It’s a horribly complicated mess, but the short version is that this co-op’s board allegedly voted to liquidate the co-op in a way that violates the co-op’s bylaws (and the law), and just happens to dramatically line the pockets of said board members. Not only that, but the TCPF was apparently cut out from board meetings despite DACHA’s bylaws calling for it to have a seat on the board. Furthermore, the City of Davis appears to be in cahoots with this improper governance. It’s a real mess and to David’s credit he has been a voice crying in the wilderness.
His work seems to be bearing fruit. I am especially impressed by the list of co-op leaders who have weighed in on this matter, as listed in a recent email David sent:
Paul Hazen, President, National Cooperative Business Association, Washington DC; Rebecca Dunn, Executive Director (ED), Cooperative Fund of New England; Christina Jennings, ED, NorthCountry Cooperative Development Fund; Gerardo Espinoza, ED, Industrial Cooperative Association, LEAF Fund; Jerry Rioux, ED, San Luis Obispo Housing Trust Fund; Tracy Parent, Director, San Francisco Community Land Trust; Newell Lessell, ED, Cooperative Group, Brookline, MA; Stephanie Mandel, Education Director, Briarpatch Co-op, Nevada City, CA;
Paul Cultrera, General Manager, Sacramento Natural Foods Cooperative; Dan Firestone, Financial Manager, Equal Exchange, Bridgewater, MA; Steven Parliament, Instructor, Indianhead Technical College, Wisconsin; Frances Moore Lappe, President, Small Planet Institute, Cambridge, MA; Margaret Lund, Principle, Co-opera, former ED, NCDF, Minneapolis, MN; Paul Harton, former General Manager, Briarpatch Co-op, Nevada City, CA; Walden Swanson, Principle, CoopMetrics, Andover, MA; Paul Bradley, CEO, Resident Owned Communities USA, Concord, NH; Bill McIntyre, ED, Ohio Employee Ownership Center; Christopher Mackin, Principal, Ownership Associates, Cambridge, MA; John Restakis, ED, BC Co-operative Association, Vancouver, Canada;
Stephen L. Dawson, President, Cooperative Home Care Associates, Bronx, NYC; Ken Galdson, Director, InterValley Project, Newton, MA; David Kirkpatrick, Former Director, National Economic and Development Law Center, Berkeley, CA; Martin Barnes, Co-Founder Davis Farmers’ Market; Herbert Fisher, Former Board member, National Association of Housing Cooperatives; Ginny Vanderslice, President, Praxis Group, Philadelphia, PA; Steve Alves, Director, Food for Change, Greenfield, MA; Myrna Britton, Atty and City of Santa Cruz Planning Commissioner; Roger Anderson, Former Chair, State LAFCO Commission. (Organizations for identification only)
David has been absolutely tireless in his efforts to achieve justice here. In addition to rounding up supporters he’s also assembled a formidable page of further information including much evidence.
And just today, he sends word that this mess just got darker and seems to be moving into cover-up mode:
63% of the testimony provided to the City of Davis by Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation (TPCF), Neighborhood Partners (NP) and other parties for the DACHA Dissolution Hearing were omitted by the City Attorney from submission to the California Attorney General. The 57 documents containing 420 pages of testimony contain some of the most critical testimony relating to the DACHA board and Membership and the role of City staff. Among the 400 missing pages are all the rent rolls, all the minutes of board and membership meetings and most of the evidences of wrongdoing and alleged illegal actions by DACHA and City staff.
Now I’m not in Davis so I can’t inspect these documents myself. But this doesn’t sound like a bluff to me (he goes on to invite any takers to inspect the files) and it really doesn’t sound like a case of misinterpretation or focusing on the negative in a situation that is shades of grey.
Sure, David has a dog in the fight here and he’s not an unbiased observer. But he raises valid issues about how an organization he heads was a legit stakeholder and should have been included in the actions taken by DACHA.
I don’t know for sure what happened in Davis, and I’m not in a position to pass judgement on the city’s actions or motives. But it’s pretty clear that there’s a serious breakdown in transparency that threatens the democracy on which both the City of Davis and DACHA are based. That has to stop.
UPDATE: It has been called to my attention that the City of Davis actually does have its side of the story online, including quite a few links. The focus is primarily financial and legal, but most germane to my comments on the board is this:
Neighborhood Partners [was] appointed the initial DACHA Board because there were no DACHA co-op members to serve on the Board until prospective occupants purchased co-op shares. This original non-member DACHA Board contracted with Neighborhood Partners to provide consultant and developer services to the co-op.
This suggests that Neighborhood Partners’ seat on the board was originally intended to be temporary, as part of a solution to the chicken/egg problem of how to form an elected board to create an organization to create a co-op to attract members to elect the board.
I’m not privy to the the original bylaws or plans, but hope that someone with inside knowledge might offer their comments below.