Palin’ Out The Weave

[Most of us saw the ‘amusing’ debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden.

A lot of us have perused the ‘less-than-amusing’ Financial Statement in the Weaver Street Market Co-operative Annual Report.

There are those of us who thought one or two things were missing from the much-anticipated Vice Presidential debate.

There is definitely something missing from the WSM Financial Statement.

This is the first year in which WSM’s management-prepared Financial Statement was Audited by an outside, independent Auditor.

The problem is the Annual Report doesn’t contain the Auditor’s official figures. It contains the pre-Audit management figures.

I don’t know why.

What I do know is that the Auditor’s figures paint a grimmer and more accurate picture about WSM’s level of debt ($10 million, not $7 million) and the size of the debt repayments (rising to $1.5 million in 2012). I’d hate to think that was the reason.

In fact, the thought is something so removed from what I believe to be appropriate in a co-operative that I decided that I needed to blow off some steam with really bad satire.

And so, I have combined the two events – the debate and the Annual Report – in a little skit, where Sarah Palin is apparently commenting on WSM’s Annual Report. Forgive me.

You can, of course, just skip the bad impersonation of Tina Fey, and go straight to the serious italicized points at the end of the post.

There I suggest some action you might want to take, like attending the WSM Annual Meeting and/or voting in the 2008 Board Elections.

In the meantime, here’s Sarah…]

“Well, it’s been a great year, you betcha’…what?…it hasn’t? You made a loss of $400,000? Oh. Would that be the same thing as a Deficit? Right…can ya’ sell it to the Chinese?

Anyways, your future is secure…what?…it isn’t? Why not? You’ve mortgaged your future for $10 million? Was that them darned predator lenders again? Can ya’ get a bail-out?

Well, it can’t be all that bad. What are the repayments? $1.5 million in 2012?! Dang! That sounds like the salary of one of them fancy Wall Street critters.

So, where did all this debt come from? A ‘Food House.’ Would that be like one of my pork-barrel earmarks? Does it have a swimming pool? No! What good is pork-barrel if it don’t give you a swimming pool and a sauna?

Who allowed all this tomfoolery? The ‘Board’? Sounds like my John-John needs to do some cleaning-house here as well as in Washington!

Ok. So, what’s the plan to get y’all out of here? You’re going to charge your customers more by taking away their Discount? Isn’t that like stabbing the hand that’s feeding your sled-dogs?

Darn tootin,’ sounds like these boys on the ‘Board’ are about as ready to solve this riddle as I am to be President…!

Now wait a second. Just hold onto to yer six-pack. Got me a shout-out comin’ on. How come these figures in this here Annual Report don’t match what you’re telling me?

What’s that? You’re looking at an ‘Audio Report’? What’s that? Is it like one of them Audio Books that Todd listens to on his sled? No? Then, what did you say…? An A-U-D-I-T-O-R’S Report…?

Is that like a stamp of approval for Weaver’s figures? Oh. Right. And the Auditor’s figures are the correct figures, and they’re different to Weaver’s figures? Ok. I gotcha.

But if the Auditor’s figures are the ‘real’ figures, then why aren’t they the ones in the Annual Report? I mean, if I did that in Alaska, I’d be investigated. Oh. That’s right. I am being investigated…

So, help me. If you’re all out of money, how are you gonna pay for the refurbishment of the Carrboro store?

Wait a minute…do you even have enough money to pay me? No?! Shoot. I’m outta here. I say: never again. I’m off to your Wine Show…!!

*******

Ok. Ouch! But now, let’s get to the serious points:

There are two sets of figures floating around, both purporting to detail WSM’s loss for 2008, our overall indebtedness, and the repayment terms.

First, there is the Financial Statement in the Annual Report (which is what is available in all the stores). This is the Statement that was produced internally by WSM management, prior to the Audit. And then, there is the independently-produced Auditor’s Report and Accounts.

The Auditor’s Report and Accounts necessarily present a starker picture of WSM’s overall financial state than the General Manager’s Statement in the Annual Report, because the Auditor’s Report and Accounts have to satisfy not only the Owners, but also, and perhaps more importantly, those financial institutions lending us the $10 million (not $7 million).

I could explain at length what is in the Auditor’s Report. How it differs from the GM’s Financial Statement in the Annual Report. And what it means for the future of our co-op. But I have a better idea.

Why not find out for yourself?

But before I turn to how, you might be asking yourselves why the difference in the figures even matters.

Simple: you can’t fashion the right response to a problem if you’re in the dark about the precise nature and extent of the problem.

Ok. So, how can you find out for yourself? Try one or all of the following:

1) Ask for your own copy of the Auditor’s Report and Accounts. You should be able to get a copy by writing to board@weaverstreetmarket.coop.

Remember, the Audit is performed on behalf of the Owners of WSM – not its management, nor its Board. Every single Owner is entitled, by law, to see a full copy of the Auditor’s Report and Accounts.

A further point: the Auditor’s Report and Accounts are, in fact, in ‘Draft’ form only – until they are approved by vote at the Annual Meeting of Owners, on October 19.

2) Ask questions. As a Worker-Owner, I wrote a letter to Jacob Myers, Board Chair, asking certain questions of the Auditor.

At first glance, it appears that some of those questions (the ones relating to company organization and debt) may have been answered. I deduce this from the manner in which the Auditor drafted his Report and Accounts.

Others of my questions haven’t been answered. Those would be the ones asking if the millions that were spent on the Food House were spent in the best possible way. No reason why those questions couldn’t also be asked by other people. Or similar questions.

Again, your questions can be directed, in the first instance to the board@ e-mail address mentioned above.

3) Go to the WSM Annual Owners’ Meeting on October 19, between 5.00pm and 7.00pm, in the Carrboro Century Center. Details are on WSM’s web-site, or can be obtained from the same board@ e-mail address above.

At the meeting, ask existing Board Directors and candidates in this year’s Board Election what sort of comprehensive plan the Board is putting together to deal with The Weave’s indebtedness – as requested by WSM’s Auditor.

Again, remember this, the Annual Meeting is part of the formal Governance Structure of Weaver Street. As an Owner, you may ask any questions you like of the Board and its General Manager. And you may pass any number of motions – all of which are binding on the Board.

4) Whatever else you may or may not do, please vote in the 2008 Board Elections. One Consumer-Owner Director and one Worker-Owner Director will be elected this year.

If you like where Weaver Street is heading, then support your Board, and vote for the incumbents.

If not. If you think we can be a better co-op and a stronger business with a different Board, then maybe vote for something different?

Maybe even ‘something completely different’…getting back to my Monty Python theme.

Or. Don’t do any of this. It’s your choice. It’s your co-op. And it’s a free world. That’s what’s great about democracy.

One final point, and I don’t apologize for the fact that I’m repeating it ‘ad nauseam’: I remain ridiculously optimistic about the future of our co-op.

We have all of the elements – physical, financial and human (in the form of 12,000 eager Consumer-Owners and 200 ready-and-willing Workers) – to be able to pull through all of this.

However, a co-op built on debt is not a co-op built to last. You can’t describe that sort of approach as ‘sustainable.’

As the Auditor has ‘suggested,’ we need to fashion a sensible and comprehensive plan, to take us back to financial security and stability.

That requires fully engaged – and fully informed – Owners. And the right Board. It’s all up to you. It’s all in your hands.

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Published in: on September 26, 2008 at 7:40 am  Leave a Comment  

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