KBOO rogue managers hire corporate HR
At the Board meeting this Monday, 20 SE 8th St., Portland, members will again confront rogue "managers"
...aspects of the current Board/manager configuration must be addressed.
Ruban Lawrence and Danielle Park, President and Vice President (respectively) of the Board, have arrogated the position of Manager for several months now.
As I have said before, it is reasonable to assume their intentions were (initially) benign. They do not have managerial experience with a hands-on democratic nonprofit, so they assumed that a strong top-down approach was needed. Or they arrived at that position after the disastrous gesture of hiring a corporate Human Relations employee to tell them what to do. So of course they received some version of "This is how we do things downtown; get the hippie vibe out, and get to work setting up a corporate hierarchy."
Now, this is where I will fault them. If they understood KBOO properly (if they had asked me or any of dozens of former Board members and Staff), they would have learned that the reason KBOO has survived for half a century is exactly because we have walked our talk with "that hippie shit." In other words, we have been able to develop and maintain a vibrant active community by treating volunteers and Staff with respect.
That is the opposite of what corporations do. They extract profits from a group of underlings by making them work under conditions of intimidation--they keep them "out of the loop" on policy and managerial decisions, they demand as much labor as they can get, and they take the better part of their productivity as profit. In the case of corporate-aligned "nonprofits" like OPB, the same paradigm applies, except that the profits are disguised as salaries for the upper managerial class. So, for example, the CEO at OPB extracts over four hundred thousand dollars per year.
Hiring on a corporate HR flack was, ineluctably, a disaster. From the perspective of that person, everything at KBOO is wrong. From that perspective, the whole culture of participation is wrong, and of course the union must be removed. The cure, then, is to start acting like corporations act: deny information to employees (either by restricting access or by being directly mendacious), intimidate them with "discipline hearings" which also work as a built-up ready excuse for firing them at will, and treat the union as an adversary. And this is what we see.
There are further complications. KBOO bylaws (which are legally constituted and must be followed) do not allow Board members to be Staff. (Ruban has come up with a dodge for that, claiming that the employee designation in the Bylaws defines an employee as a paid person--therefore, unpaid managers aren't managers. If their expensive legal counsel told them that, they are being ill served--it's a ridiculously specious claim.).
This means that Ruban and Danielle's managerial decisions --and expenditures of funds--are not properly constituted under the Bylaws. It means that the tens of thousands that they have spent--and will be billed--for this little project haven't been properly approved. I call that mismanagement at best, and more obviously, malfeasance and misappropriation of funds. The result has been a disastrous collapse of goodwill.
KBOO cannot afford a collapse of goodwill. Our Staff has always volunteered extra hours--in other words, done extra work for free--because they believe in what we are doing, and because they can count on being treated as equal members of a benevolent team of activists. There is no way to pay them for all that they actually do, and there is no way to retain them with their paltry salaries if they feel abused.
And they feel abused--because they are being abused. I don't give two fucks if that's how the big boys do it downtown. KBOO is not a for-profit business, and it's not OPB Junior.
So there's a lot at stake. True to the corporate way of action, Ruban and Danielle are holding on to power for dear life, hoping that their cascading aggressions will result in a new, transformed KBOO. The last two Board meetings, these observations were brought to them, and they have made it clear that they intend to hold the course.
It is not actually legal, however, to subvert the will of the nonprofit by avoiding quorum, using the nonprofit's own funds to hire legal counsel against its democratic structure, and conducting personal vendettas against Staff and the Union. It's more on the lines of malfeasance and fraud.
ORS 65.369 protects Board members from financial liability for whoopsies, but it makes a clear exception for "gross negligence or intentional misconduct." I think Danielle and Ruban are intentionally subverting the KBOO staff, and their refusal to listen to experienced former Board members and Staff borders on gross negligence. We have told them repeatedly that they cannot be "acting managers" for all these months, and experienced interim managers have been directly presented to them.
Their truculence is eating away at our meager financial reserves.
I will be at the Board meeting Monday.
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