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  • Writer's pictureD. Maurice Kreis

Concerning the Recently Departed Co-op Board President

Hello Co-op Nation!

Daybreak -- that invaluable source of news and insight into life in the Upper Valley -- was kind enough to mention my account of last Wednesday's Co-op Board meeting and even publish a link to it. Among the comments in my blog post was this one: "The Board must elect a new president – 'someone,' wrote [Acting General Manager] Paul [Guidone], 'that I can work with.” It was a pretty explicit rebuke not just of the recently resigned president but of the poor job the Board has sometimes done in choosing its leader.'" That, in turn, prompted the following communication from Arnold Milstein. I am not acquainted with Mr. Milstein, which I am sorry about because he's obviously articulate, intelligent, and knowledgeable on a variety of topics -- including recent internal affairs at the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society. Here's the e-mail I received from him:

"Don, as a lawyer you know reputations count - sometimes even affecting a person's ability to interact professionally in a community like the Upper Valley.  "Paul Guidone's quote above does not reflect a rebuke of recently resigned Co-op Board President Allene Swienckowski by IGM Paul Guidone. Instead, Paul's comment was aimed at alerting the existing Board that the new Board President must be "someone....that I can work with". "Facts count, Don.  If you take the time to personally check with Paul Guidone on his estimation of Allene Swienckowski, you will discover that Paul has enormous respect for Allene Swienckowski. Indeed, in his estimation, she was the only professional on a Board that otherwise seemed amateurish at times.  He will verify the intent of his quote that you used to disparage Allene Swienckowski. "Paul Guidone and Allene Swienckowski had an excellent business rapport. They could talk and understand each other.  That is why it was clear to Allene that Paul was becoming increasingly annoyed with the Boards' dilatoriness and unnecessary delay in offering him the position of permanent GM. That is also why Allene Swienckowski carefully crafted a clear email to the entire Board on the Monday prior to the fateful Board's Executive Meeting warning them of the need to make Paul an offer or risk losing him.  "Check with Paul Guidone on the relevant facts, Don.  Both Paul and Allene respect each other's competence and professionalism; he will verify that reality.  Paul knows that Allene was his main champion for the permanent GM position, and it was only the dilatory recalcitrance of a couple of the Board members that jammed up the obvious Board move - which was to graciously and gratefully offer Paul Guidone the permanent GM position. His leadership performance - both before and during the pandemic - have been beyond outstanding. It was obvious to Allene, which is why she spent months advocating for Paul against the headwinds of a few obstinate Board members. "Paul Guidone offered his resignation in the face of the particular Board members' continued, and indeed insulting, dilatory behavior. In the immediate moments after Paul's expressed his intent to resign, Allene Swienckowski also immediately tendered her resignation in an 'I-can-only-throw-my-hands-up-at-this-nonsense'  moment.  Enough was enough, for her. If the Board's amateurish behavior would continued to be swayed by a few recalcitrant individuals, then it was time for her to leave the Board and serve the community elsewhere.  "When Allene resigned immediately in the aftermath of Paul Guidone's resignation, Don, that left the Board with no president.  That is why, as part of his 'I'll-stay-if-demands' on the Board,  Paul made the quoted comment, "The Board must elect a new president – “someone,” wrote Paul, “that I can work with.”  Paul was, at that moment, talking about going forward IF the Board's new president would be someone he could work with - and it was not a reflection on the (just) resigned president Allene Swienckowski.  It is a simple task to verify these facts with a call or email to Paul Guidone, Don. "Allene Swienckowski is a genuine contributor to various civic activities in the Upper Valley/Hartford area, Don,  which is why it is important for you to correct your disparaging statement regarding Allene.  As a lawyer, Don, you know that reputations matter. You took the time to write your comment, therefore, after you confirm the facts with Paul Guidone, please take the time to publically correct your disparaging comments in the relevant venues. "Respectfully, "Arnold Milstein Concerned Citizen"

Here is what I have to say in response to Mr. Milstein:

I don't know Allene Swienckowski, and if I leapt to the wrong conclusion about who Paul Guidone might have been criticizing (by demanding a Board president with whom he can work) I apologize. I deliberately did not mention Ms. Swienckowski by name precisely because I was not completely certain who, if anyone, Paul was finding insufferable.

Mr. Milstein suggests I ring up Paul Guidone and get a fuller accounting of the facts. I am not going to do that. For one thing, Mr. Milstein has (I think) already done a good job of laying out a plausible account of what happened. As I said, I don't know Arnold Milstein but I have no reason to suppose any of his contentions are wrong.

I'm not functioning as a journalist here; I'm just a former Board member with a blog. The Valley News is busy investigating this situation and, I believe, will be publishing a story in due course. If Paul would like to make a public comment to the effect that he had an excellent working relationship with Allene Swienckowski, doing so through me is probably not the best approach.

Mr. Milstein asked me "to publically correct [my] disparaging comments in the relevant venues." I hereby withdraw any comments that could be understood as disparaging Allene Swienckowski. I have no reason to doubt that she is as fine a person as Mr. Milstein suggests, I apologize to her without reservation, but I will leave to others the task of investigating and reporting.




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