Friday, April 25, 2014

@MEC pretends to be a #democracy -- AGM report

Mountain Equipment Cooperative announced its director election results at the 2014 Annual General Meeting yesterday (April 24). While claiming to be improving the election process, the incumbent board now exercises great control over who gets elected. Not only do they put their candidate recommendations on the ballot, but they also prevent some candidates from being on the ballot at all.

For this year's election to fill 4 director seats, the board recommended these 8 candidates:
Ellen Pekeles
Dale Mills
Gord Howe
Doug Brownridge
Daniel Blanche
Tamara Paton
Jonathan Gallo
Bill Gibson
They also allowed onto the ballot these 6 candidates, whom they did not recommend:
Jake Burlet
Pat Maher
Stephanie Bird
Bob Brent
Alex Beaskow
Tom Webb
These 4 were announced at the AGM as having been elected:
Ellen Pekeles
Tamara Paton
Jonathan Gallo
Daniel Blanche
As you can see, only "recommended" candidates were elected. I've documented elsewhere how boards can and do use on-ballot recommendations to ensure that the only candidates who get elected are those that do not challenge the incumbent board. This reduces the board's accountability to members, which opens the door to corruption.

The board chair claimed at the AGM that these recent election rule changes are "good governance" recommended by "experts". The "expert" he cited is often hired and paid by boards, and often gives advice to increase boards' power. I emphasized the obvious self-serving bias in a letter to FICOM, the regulator for B.C. credit unions: It is natural for directors and their payees to say: "To improve governance, we should give more power to directors."

But the MEC board has gone much further than the credit unions I wrote to FICOM about. As we saw last year, they used their new power to prevent a highly qualified candidate from even getting onto the ballot. So we only get to choose among candidates who don't rock their boat.

I thank Melissa Fong for sharing this quote from Noam Chomsky in a recent tweet:
"The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum."
One of the fundamental principles of co-ops is: "Co-operatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members". Which raises the question:
Is MEC a co-op?


Stephen Rees said...

Unfortunately being a co-op is no bar to utter incompetence at board level - as documented in the UK co-op movement here

Mark Latham said...



- Election Results

- MEC voting discussion on ClubTread

- Candidate ratings by MEC Members for a Democratic Co-op