About 20 friends of Community GroundWorks met with the Community GroundWorks board on May 20th. The undersigned submitted the following five requests in writing to the board. The board agreed to respond in writing within 2 weeks (by June 3). We received a response on June 4 and responded in kind.

Five Questions for the Board of Directors of Community GroundWorks 

We are a group of community members with ties to Troy Gardens who have deep concerns about Claire Strader’s abrupt departure from her job as CSA Farm Director.  Whatever the Board’s concerns were regarding Claire’s job performance, we feel appropriate management of those concerns would not have resulted in her leaving her position.  Therefore, we have deep misgivings about this Board’s management of the organization. Coupling these concerns with our devotion to Troy Gardens and its remaining staff, we are requesting written answers to these five questions.

1) While we understand from reading the Community GroundWorks employee handbook that the Executive Director can terminate any employee at any time, we also know that the handbook stipulates that annual performance reviews and other informal reviews (and here I quote),

“…may be conducted at any time in order to clarify responsibilities and performance standards, help employees set and check progress on goals, or recognize exceptional work.”

The handbook goes on to say that:

The Executive Director, Program Manager, and/or the Executive Committee will work with the employee and, as appropriate, other staff to develop performance expectations for each staff member and make sure these expectations are communicated to the employee.

The handbook states that the objectives of a performance review are:

(1)    to determine the employee’s eligibility for a change in duties, status or pay;

(2)    to provide the basis for determining job training needs;

(3)  to give employees an evaluation of their performance and assist them in improving their performance; and

(4)  to inform the Executive Director or the Board of any questions or concerns an employee may have about their work.

Finally, the handbook includes the following description of disciplinary steps that can be taken for employees:

  1. Meet with the employee to discuss the matter.
  2. Prepare a memorandum for the supervisor’s own records indicating that the meeting has taken place.
  3. Issue a written reprimand to the employee informing the employee of the nature of the problem and the action necessary to correct it, warning the employee that a third incident will result in more severe disciplinary action, and warning the employee that improvement is expected within a prescribed period of time.
  4. Suspend the employee with or without pay;
  5. Suspend the employee and recommend termination.

Our first question to the board is this: Did you follow all of the steps laid out in the Employee Handbook for all recent staff departures at Community GroundWorks?

2) We do not believe the Community GroundWorks by-laws and articles of incorporation allow for adequate communication between the board, the staff and the community at large. Is the board willing to create a subcommittee with community involvement to review this concern?

3) We are formally requesting information about how community members might be chosen as board members.  It is our understanding that the board’s capacity is 21 members and that there are currently 14 on the board.  How many additional members would the board be willing to take on, and how does the nomination and election process work?

4) Without information about the circumstances leading up to Claire’s departure, concerned community members are left to conclude that either Claire resigned:

voluntarily …

at the start of the growing season …

with a crop of new interns counting on her …

and left behind a farm, great colleagues and CSA customers she loved…

and a job she was passionate about…

and really good at…

And all of this without a new job to fall back on—

Either that happened, or…well, we just don’t know what any other scenario might look like.  The secrecy surrounding Claire’s departure prevents us from knowing.  In the wake of this secrecy, rumors spring up and relationships among community members are damaged. The policy of imposing secrecy via confidentiality agreements smacks of a corporate mentality completely at odds with the community-based roots of this organization.

So, our fourth question is: Is the board willing to acknowledge in writing that Claire can speak as freely as she wishes regarding the events surrounding her departure without the board retaliating against Claire in any way?  

5) High staff turnover in recent years raises concerns that the current board may have created an unstable work environment that may affect the sustainability of the organization–a work environment in which staff do not feel valued.  By what mechanisms is staff input sought, analyzed and incorporated into decision-making at Community GroundWorks?

Thanks for delivering a written response to each of these questions to any of us listed below.

We want you to know that have deep respect for your work and we appreciate the hours you devote to Troy Gardens.  For the many sacrifices you have made on behalf of the organization we are in your debt.  We look forward to working with you to address our concerns.

•    Todd Cambio
•    Lily Hoyer-Winfield
•    Wayde Lawler
•    Sarah Luetzow
•    Donal MacCoon
•    Jim Powell
•    Maria Powell
•    Sierra Powell
•    Emily Sanford
•    Maury Smith
•    Marcia Yapp

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