It gives us no pleasure to report today on the internal problems of the Kootenay Co-op board. As a community newspaper, we’re not interested in needlessly stirring up controversy and we’re acutely sensitive to the parties involved. But we’d be doing our readers a disservice if we ignored it.
A bit of background: upon stepping down from the board, Leon Pigott approached us with a letter to the editor explaining to the membership — and by extension the public — his reasons for resigning. Soon after, we learned Olindo Chiocca had also resigned, citing similar concerns.
Before going any further, we asked the co-op board for its side of the story. They were understandably uncomfortable with their internal politics being aired publicly and urged us not to print the letter, as they were still trying to deal with the fallout.
After meeting with longtime general manager Deirdrie Lang and a board member, we agreed to hold off for a week. However, when we checked in again, we were surprised to learn Lang was no longer the co-op’s manager.
That, we felt, forced our hand.
Furthermore, the co-op shared the news with its membership this week — albeit in language that omitted the acrimony that precipitated the resignations and perhaps made it seem like Lang’s new role was of her choosing.
That the co-op is a major advertiser doesn’t make our job any easier, but our editorial decisions must be made without regard for how the consequences might affect our bottom line.
The co-op was still reluctant to discuss the issue this week, suggesting that our coverage would somehow pose a health and safety risk.
Why is the co-op’s governance and staffing a story at all? After all, no organization is immune to occasional infighting. The answer is simply prominence.
The co-op is one of Nelson’s biggest, oldest, and most important institutions. It has thousands of members. And now that it’s embarking on Nelson Commons, a massive project that will change the face of downtown, its profile has never been higher.
Not being privy to the board’s in-camera discussions, we’re not sure if the issue can be reduced to who’s right and who’s wrong. Everyone involved is credible: the directors who resigned and directors who remain are reputable, respected citizens.
That the co-op moved swiftly to find a new interim store manager along with two new directors (again, all highly credible people) might help the whole thing blow over quickly.
For all of the agonizing over this issue — by the board and by the Star — whether it will upset the co-op membership or be swiftly forgotten remains to be seen.