Members Only?

Co-op meeting set for Jan. 24



The basement meeting room in Boise's St. John's Cathedral has a maximum capacity of about 100 people. That's the location for the Monday, Jan. 24, meeting of Boise Co-op members who total more than 40,000. No one is expecting all of the members to attend, but if even a fraction show up, it will be a logistical challenge.

"They'll probably need to usher in 100 people, tell them what's going on and then circulate in another 100," said a co-op employee who asked to remain anonymous.

The reason for anonymity is that the co-op veteran is concerned about repercussions. Workers have been asked by acting co-op manager Gary Lyons not to speak to the media.

"They've asked us not to spread any rumors and no one seems to know all the facts," said the employee. "But the board hasn't said anything publicly either. They're trying pretty hard to respect Ken and honor his legacy."

Ken Kavanaugh, one of the founders of Boise Co-op, was approached on Jan. 13 by Lyons (who was chairman of the co-op board) and Pat Haas (another board member who has since taken over chairmanship).

"They said, 'We're going to escort you off the premises,'" Kavanaugh told BW in an exclusive interview. "I said no you're not. This is not how you treat people."

Since the interview, an outpouring of support and condemnation has stacked up at BW's online news blog Citydesk:

"The way an organization separates with folks usually says more about its culture than anything else."

"This move should have happened a long time ago."

"Ken has been almost synonymous with the co-op."

"Ken fired thousands of people over the years without giving them the time of day."

"I would be upset, too, if I found out half the employees I managed were high-fiving after my bosses fired me."

Ander Sundell, a former employee, said he quit a year ago because of Kavanaugh.

"It was a climate of fear," said Sundell. "You never crossed Ken. He ran the co-op as if it was a monarchy."

"I'm not the most perfect person in the world," Kavanaugh told BW. "I've made some mistakes. But I wouldn't treat a dog the way I was treated."

But the anonymous worker, who asked to be anonymous, said the majority of employees are happy to see Kavanaugh leave.

"About 85 percent of the staff is below the management level, and I'm pretty confident to say that almost all of them are happy to see Ken go," he said.

The employee said Lyons has been spending most of his time meeting with store employees.

"He's been talking to us, 10 at a time. The meetings have been going non-stop since Friday," said the employee. "But they won't directly answer why Ken was fired. I really don't think they want to bad-mouth him."

As for the meeting on Monday, Jan. 24, the employee expects fireworks.

"It will probably be a shit storm," he said. "Ken is going to ask for reinstatement and to dismiss certain board members. But I'm guessing that the board will tell him to sit down. He's no longer an employee nor a board member."

As for customers, the employee said, "I would ask yourself: Do you support the institution or do you support the man?"


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