Recently I was given a report about the events of a recent neighbouring zone meeting for Egg Farmers of Ontario (EFO). Surprisingly there seemed to be a contradiction regarding an answer to a question that was brought forward by one of the attending egg producers. The question involved whether or not EFO members were entitled to minutes of the Board meetings. The immediate response from the General Manager, Harry Pelissero was that producers are not entitled to the minutes. He even elaborated that the governing body of EFO didn’t receive minutes either. Then reluctantly a past Board of Director Member, who also happens to be a lawyer (for what that’s worth?) stated that producers could get the minutes but they had to ask – kinda like a first grader having to ask to use the washroom? How ridiculous!
First of all, I know that’s crap. When I was a producer I asked and was told I was not entitled to minutes. And it was during this former Board member’s term in which I asked. Where was she when I asked? Why didn’t she step up and say that I was entitled at that time? Was there something to hide? If the statement of claim for the existing lawsuit is accurate, there is a heck of a lot of information hidden.
Secondly, I want somebody to tell me how it is that the governing body (Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission) can regulate if they aren’t even aware of the decisions that are being made at the EFO Board table? Based on this information, how can anyone say that supply management is working? There’s no accountability for EFO. There should be no one wondering why there’s a huge lawsuit in which EFO is right in the centre.
Based on the question being raised at the zone meeting, it is obvious there is at least one producer who would like to get minutes – and I’m sure there are more who won’t speak up. So if one of them asked for my advice, this is what I would tell them. YOU ARE IN CHARGE OF THE MEETING! Just because Harry and all of the other ‘suits’ are up at the front, the egg producers are still picking up the tab for this meeting, paying all the salaries, all the honorariums, all the costs for the rooms, food, etc.
The last time I attended, there was a pseudo-Robert’s Rules of Order process to the meeting. That means that any producer can make a motion for an action to be done. For instance, someone should make a motion that minutes are to be taken at each Board meeting and made available to all egg producers. Make sure that there’s another egg producer ready to second the motion – otherwise Harry will try to keep producers silent. Having a rogue producer making unexpected motions makes his job a whole lot harder. But he makes the big bucks (that number is buried somewhere in those elusive financial statements!), paid completely by your levy dollars, so get your money’s worth. Be prepared for the Board to be confused. They won’t know what hit them and won’t know how to proceed. Insist that there is a motion on the floor and needs to be dealt with and voted on by the attending members. And make sure that there are some producers who will vote in favour of the motion. It’s not hard, just takes some time.
Maybe there are other motions that should be raised such as:
– An analysis of the reasons that EFO is in this legal battle, conducted by an outside consultant in order that EFO avoids this kind of mess in the future
– Changing the ‘quota-holder’ session to include industry representatives. This decision was made exclusively by the Board, not the producers. If producers want the industry reps there, make a motion to include them – even if they’re given attendance-only status, with no right to speak and/or vote.
– A review of the EFO employee behavioural policy, including a review of the process for dismissing employees who are insubordinate. This may be needed if Harry loses it and tells producers that they can’t make motions at their own annual meeting. I think that could constitute insubordination, eh?
Take back your industry. Be aware of what’s going on within it – starting off by receiving and reading the minutes. Then you can hold your Board member accountable by asking questions about what’s going on at the Board level. If any producer needs help to prepare for the meeting, contact me – I’m prepared to suggest possible options.