TALES FROM THE COOP

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EVEN THE REPORTER HUFFS

The February General Meeting was a quiet election bracketed by feuds. It started with rebel director Chandra Hauptman handing out a letter in which she personally attacked the coop newsletter reporter who had covered the January Special Meeting. At that meeting, the members had overruled the opposition directors' veto of the already member-approved Building Next Door study. I thought the reporter had been objective. Hauptman did not.

"I do not think that someone with such an obvious bias should be a Gazette reporter," Hauptman said in her open letter. She even accused the reporter of "fanning the flames of controversy," and said that the Special Meeting had been a "good beginning towards healing the rift in the membership." Actually, the Special Meeting had convened to oppose the rebel directors' earlier, inflammatory veto. The rebel directors' sole contribution to this "good beginning," unless they also brought chips, was to try sabotaging it by siccing an outside lawyer on the coordinators.

"SHAME ON YOU GAZETTE WRITERS FOR YOUR BIASED REPORTING AND YELLOW JOURNALISM!" Hauptman's flyer screamed in full caps. Appalled, the reporter (a different one) for this meeting asked people to pledge not to personally attack her too. Not all agreed, so she huffed, leaving behind a tape recorder. And when that reporter later phoned rebel director Stewart Martin to quote him accurately -- the taped meeting had ended in loud confusion -- Martin refused to repeat even his own words to her. He told her to find someone else to quote him, adding "I don't think you're unbiased and I don't think you're fit to report on this for the Gazette." Why Martin's distrust? Martin later wrote that that reporter had, as a speaker at the January Special Meeting, "spoke[n] out vociferously about how awful it was that the three independent board members did not stand up and say anything at said meeting." Martin added that during her phone call to him, he impugned her objectivity "given her recent actions." So much for a self-proclaimed pro-democracy activist's support of free speech.

The meeting itself -- electing members to study the Building Next Door -- continued despite fear that the rebel directors might not ratify the creation of the committee. A coordinator said that the January Special Meeting vote creating the committees did not need board confirmation, but the election proceeded less from his assurance than from optomistic fatalism.

The election, with candidates rich in real estate and planning experience, was uneventful, and the rebel directors agreed to confirm it even before the results were in, which was nice of them. But then Martin claimed that the board had to ratify the decisions of the January Special Meeting. The mainstream directors opposed this, one saying the Special Meeting didn't need board approval, another saying the directors shouldn't vote anyway without proper notice to the membership. Someone suggested that the board now vote on whether it should ratify the Special Meeting, but that too was rejected. According to the absent reporter's article, coordinator-director Joe Holtz "asked Martin write this up for the agenda for the next meeting. This, Joe noted, would give everyone time to consult lawyers. At this point, multiple voices on the tape made it impossible to determine who was speaking and what was said. . . . On that note, the meeting was adjourned."

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jkarpf@echonyc.com