U co-op leadership in flux

by Kevin McCahill

Another manager was fired from Commonwealth Terrace Cooperative on the St. Paul campus, adding to tension among leaders and employees at the facility.

In the past two years, residents have seen two general managers resign or be fired, and residents twice have taken over managerial duties at the University-owned complex.

Most recently it was Roger Jahn, who cleaned out his desk last week.

With 27 years of property management experience, Jahn was upset he lost his job after four months and said he wasn’t given a reason by the board of directors.

Some employees said there has been a lot of tension for years about the mishandling of duties by the board and the dismissal of employees such as Jahn as well as board members who haven’t been following the rules they have set.

The complex, which houses more than 1,000 people, is run by a 14-member board of directors and is home to graduate and international students.

“At a whim, if they don’t like your personality or don’t like your hair, they get rid of you,” Jahn said. “They are concerned about the board; its personal gains, their own personal agenda.”

Jahn was employed by the co-op for four months and said he constantly had difficulties with the board.

“Managing the property, that is a piece of cake,” he said. “The rest of it is tough.”

He was fired in October but said the board gave him no reason for termination.

President of Commonwealth Terrace Cooperative and applied economics graduate student Bernardo Creamer said the split with Jahn was amicable.

“We had Roger with us for four months, and after four months, there was mutual agreement that we couldn’t work together anymore,” Creamer said. “It’s not like he was fired or he quit; it was a mutual agreement.”

Sherry Jackson, vice president of the cooperative for 2004-2005, said there were no extenuating circumstances for the release of Jahn.

“It just didn’t work out,” she said, offering no further comment.

Jahn said upkeep of the building has slacked, leaving 30 vacancies out of 450 rooms.

“Over the past two years, the board (has been) so dysfunctional,” he said. “It’s too bad because they are the ones making rules and agendas but are not paying attention to what property needs are.”

Creamer said any reports of improper management were looked into and found to be inaccurate.

“There are a lot rumors that go around,” Creamer said. “That contributes to the atmosphere. It only makes (the job) harder. We just try to keep harmony and good feeling in the community.”

Jahn said employees haven’t been receiving proper training in safety codes due to a lack of funding by the board.

“They are spending the majority of money on legal fees, always getting themselves in hot water,” he said.

Jackson said she was aware of grievances brought forward by employees, but admitted not all were followed through to employee satisfaction because of a lack of a cooperative manager.

“We love our employees,” Jackson said. “We have nothing against them.”

According to Jackson, the cooperative is still negotiating with the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, a St. Paul-based management group, which might take over management of the facility.

The Amherst H. Wilder Foundation did not return calls by press time.

The University owns Commonwealth Terrace, but employees work for the corporation and its board, so they don’t get the same benefits as University employees.

Jahn said he believes employees have been treated cruelly by the board.

Mara Sheldon, a psychology senior who lives at Commonwealth Terrace Cooperative, said she doesn’t trust the board and thinks there are many problems brewing.

“It’s systemic,” she said. “It’s never-ending.”