A new board of directors for the Original Certified Santa Rosa Farmer’s Market has officially reinstated embroiled market manager Paula Downing to her former post.
A six-member interim board unanimously voted to hire Downing last night, after weeks of controversy during which Downing was fired, rehired and ultimately put into a legal limbo where her employment was in dispute. She was dismissed from her position as a contract-employee at the Wednesday and Saturday Veteran’s Hall market on Sept. 30, and returned on Nov. 8.
“It feels good doing my life’s work again,” said Downing during the meeting. “There are still emotional things to deal with, but it’s feels good.”
Based on last night’s vote, Downing will receive a $500 per month raise, along with benefits as an employee of the market. Ironically, the employment offer made last night was identical to the same offer she rejected in September and which ultimately led to her firing.
The choice to reinstate Downing has been contentious, leading to the mass resignations of of six of the market’s seven board members. The former board resigned after 56 of the market’s 111 members voted to reinstate Downing — an act they deemed illegal and outside the market’s own bylaws.
Several former board members in attendance at last night’s meeting asked both publicly and privately why Downing rejected their offer, which they claim led to the market’s internal upheaval, and accepted it last night.
Downing declined to comment about her decision last night, but when reached for comment today said she anticipated continued negotiations for additional compensation after the new finance committee had investigated the market’s financial solvency. According to its own bylaws, the board was legally required to resolve Downing’s employment status before she could attend any future markets.
Interim board members also voted to suspend legal counsel retained by former board members to mitigate Downing’s employment status during last night’s meeting.
The next board meeting for the market will be held on December 6, and a new board will be elected on January 29, 2011.