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Co-op members want new board

Recent merger talks leave bitter taste

Members of Durango Natural Foods, upset about a move to merge the cooperative with a larger New Mexico purveyor of organic food, have launched an online petition to remove the seven members of the co-op’s board.

In what is labeled an “urgent alert” to members, Kimberly Wiggins, co-general manager of the DNF store, said the online petition will be removed at midnight Sept. 7.

“This request comes about due to the board’s recent discussions regarding the sale of DNF to La Montanita (Food Co-op) as well compromising our organizations (sic) health with lack of transparency and the intention of replacing our competent co-general managers Kimberly Wiggins and Brian Gaddy,” the alert says.

The largest turnout of Durango Natural Foods cooperative members in recent memory brought a lively two-hour discussion Aug. 18 of merger issues, which rank-and-file members say they weren’t informed of beforehand.

A merger was virtually a done deal when they became aware of talks between the board members of DNF and La Montanita, members said.

La Montanita, based in Albuquerque, operates six stores there and in Gallup and Santa Fe, plus a large distribution center. It has 17,000 members.

DNF has 1,800 members and operates a lone store at College Drive and East Eighth Avenue.

The main arguments in favor of a merger are the increased buying power and lower costs that La Montanita would bring and more formal management.

Conversely, DNF members see their 40-year-old co-op being swallowed whole by La Montanita and jobs being eliminated or radically reorganized.

Reached by phone, Geoff Wolf, chairman of the DNF board, declined comment.

“No comment,” Wolf said. “I have nothing to say. Not today. Maybe later.”

Under the scenario proposed by the dissidents, the current board would step down enmasse and be replaced temporarily by two longtime DNF members – Pat Blair and Root Routledge. Three additional board members would be elected in November.

The opponents of the merger cite clauses from the DNF bylaws that authorize change of leadership.

The reasons they give for demanding the dismissal of the board are: lack of transparency and misleading communications with members; initiation of merger negotiations behind the back of the general membership; and moving ahead with a costly and unnecessary hiring of a general manager from the outside.

Wolf’s board colleagues are Paul Kosnik, Victoria Robinson, Robert Fitts, Jim Forleo, Deborah Powell and Colleen Caver.

The immediate continuance of merger talks has ended. La Montanita general manager Terry Bowling told DNF days after the Aug. 18 meeting that he is no longer interested in a closer alliance with DNF.

La Montanita for decades stood ready with advice and apparently with financial assistance when DNF was going through hard times.

Routledge, Wiggins and Gaddy didn’t return calls Wednesday.


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