(Photo by Alex Yee via twitter.com/YaelLehmann)
A week after Yael Lehmann — the Food Trust‘s president and CEO for the past 18 years — left the organization, 12 people have been laid off, several members of the leadership team have resigned, and senior management has voluntarily taken a 10% pay cut.
“Today there is a lot of sadness at the organization,” said Duane Perry, the founder of the organization, who the board has brought in to ease the leadership transition after Lehmann’s sudden departure. “The last week has been difficult.”
But, Perry said, “There is also a palpable sense of relief. People are still grieving and have a lot of questions but our goal is to face forward and make sure we are delivering services.”
The possibility of layoffs was announced to the staff last Friday, those who were laid off were notified this morning. Some people from the leadership team have resigned, according to Perry, so that other staff could stay. “I was floored by the generosity of that response,” he said.
Perry himself is reportedly volunteering his time until a new CEO is hired.
The organization, which has a $10 million budget, has been running a structural deficit for the past two years. The problem, Perry said, is that the organization has “a big heart “and tried to keep people on staff even after the grants that funded their positions had come to an end. Which meant they used unrestricted funds to pay those salaries.
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“We’ve been spending unrestricted money we don’t have,” he said. “Last year the deficit was several hundred thousand, this year I’m confident it will be higher. The majority of the deficit reduction will be dealt with by the layoffs.”
Because of the fiscal situation, those who were laid off will not receive any severance pay.
Perry said he does not envision the deficit affecting the mission or reducing any programs outlined in the mission. “The Food Trust of the future will look like the Food Trust of the past,” he said, “only with conservative checkbook management. We won’t be leading with the heart.”-30-
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