Former Yoro Food Bank board member sues organization for unfair dismissal

YOLO COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) — FOX40 News first learned that recently fired Yolo Bank Food Executive Director Michael Bisch is being sued against the organization he once headed.

The civil lawsuit follows allegations involving misconduct by board members, the law firm’s dismissal while investigating those board members, and changes in services to agencies that rely on nonprofits. causing concern for her 25,000 people whom the food bank supports each month.

Karen Baker, current executive director of Yolo Food Bank, said:

These were recent words from Yolo Food Bank’s new director, Baker, to a community still confused about what happened to the institution’s last director, Michael Bisch.

“Something is seriously off track,” Bish said.

He first came on May 31st via text message.

It has been two and a half months since Bish, one of the organization’s most admired leaders of all time, was abruptly fired for what he claimed was a procedurally inappropriate and retaliatory move. rice field.

“I’m no longer a Yolo Foodbank employee, so I can’t go under the muzzle,” he said.

One of the allegations made by Bish in the initial reports of FOX40’s dismissal was that resigned or resigned board members were still on his ballot as staff complaints against them were investigated.

He also claims that no quorum had been established at the time.

That’s the question FOX40 posed to outside spokespeople hired by food banks to deal with management changes.


“No, it wasn’t. There were enough directors under the bylaws of the organization to take action that the organization took,” Jean Endicott said.

FOX40 then obtained emails sent to candidates elected to the board during that time.

Sent to food bank board candidates who were at the Zoom election meeting in May. I apologize to them for that.

“And I was very surprised when I also attended the annual meeting and election that Wednesday. A board member started yelling at my director of marketing communications, who was reading prepared comments, and abruptly canceled the election,” Bisch recalls.

Bish said some board members canceled their resignations for some reason in support of text messages that resulted in his formal dismissal days later.

Endicott was hired to speak on behalf of the board about the situation, but was unable to provide insight into one particular point of tension between Bish and the board. , he says, one obvious point is his push to force cities across Yolo County and the county itself to comply with Senate Bill 1383, a new state law on food waste.

Bish put forward a plan developed by a consulting firm that the food bank hired while he was in charge.

After a six-year lead time, the city and county were to comply with this edible food recall law beginning January 1 of this year. It aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing what ends up in landfills, instead trying to recover what could end up as food waste.

The law is based on the principle that shoppers want to see merchandise on display at all times. To that end, 30-40% of food is overstocked across stores and supply lines.

“So every day, 30 to 40 percent of excess food is thrown away, usually in landfills, where we all pay for it,” Bisch explains.

One of SB 1383’s goals is to create a system to rescue more food from moving to landfills, perhaps through warehousing, trucking and delivery, and send it to families in need instead. This requires buy-in, funding and planning. Bisch claims he has received backlash from multiple cities and counties.

Unable to take advantage of the extra food stream produced by SB 1383, Bish became concerned.

He was facing dwindling food donations. Demand tripled he during the pandemic and is still holding up, growing another 55% this year alone.

Considering all of this, Bisch and his management have warned some community partners that they may not be able to do as much as they used to, like turkey giveaways during the holiday season. did.

According to food bank board members, the idea appears to have provoked the ire of the Yolo County Supervisory Board. The supervisor wrote to the food bank board, pointing out that it contradicted the way Bish and his team were trying to direct certain donations.

“We will take all necessary steps to ensure that the leadership of Yolo Food Bank is not held accountable and if we decide otherwise … we will do whatever is necessary to end this situation immediately. please,” the letter said.

Despite the tone of the letter, supervisors have no role in the operation of Yolo Food Bank.

“They won’t pull us. Don’t hold us back. We’re not doing them a favor. So why would my board, my former board, be their puppet?” agreed to become … especially when it undermines our mission and results in fewer people being fed …. .

It also seemed to be the sentiment expressed by the food bank’s former accounting manager in his resignation letter.

Katie Schroeder wrote to the board on June 2, citing the “inexplicably poor decision to fire Michael” and calling it “harmful to the people we work so hard to serve.” ‘I’m afraid that

“In my view, this decision is rooted in satisfying the egos of some or all of our board members, rather than ensuring that YFB continues to increase food security in our community. It seems,” her letter continued.

Schroeder had planned to resign on June 17, but was fired shortly after submitting a letter to the board.

An outside spokesperson for the board asked to clarify whether disagreements over new food waste laws and pressure from county supervisors may have been reasons for the change in food bank leadership. Rejected.

“I’m not saying it’s not discussed. It’s not something I’m ready to talk to you about,” Endicott said.

The Yolo Food Bank literally provides food to many non-profit organizations around Yolo County, sending food to them before they directly distribute or make meals that are given to those in need. .

Some leaders of these groups say they can no longer count on food banks in the same way since Bish’s dismissal.

Meals on Wheels Yolo County is one of them. The agency was waiting to launch a planned bulk food purchase arrangement that could really help deal with the current price spike caused by inflation.

Their current director took over the helm seven months ago after a career in the food bank.

No answer has yet come as to why the planned food purchases did not start.

“We recently had several conversations to convey how important it is to have such a program. Do what we can to combat food insecurity among seniors in our community “We don’t have a specific date yet as to when we can expect that to happen,” Joy Cohan said. , but it hasn’t happened as I hoped at the beginning of the summer.”

Since rumors of Bish’s dismissal have spread and raised questions, new food bank executives have insisted there has been no change in service levels.

Yolo County transferred more than $750,000 to food banks this year to help implement SB 1383.

It’s unclear at this time how the money will be used.

FOX40 News has reached out to board members named in the lawsuit and new food bank executives for comment on the lawsuit and is awaiting any response.

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