Questions are being raised by a group of Kerry Co-op shareholders over a proposed electoral review within the co-op, particularly over its timing and the role of the board of directors.

The Kerry Co-op Milk Suppliers and Shareholders Alliance, which recently opposed the co-op’s Share Redemption Scheme, is questioning why members of the co-op’s advisory committees will have to step down and seek re-election in the new selection process.

While this goes on, according to the shareholders alliance, directors will retain their positions until their terms end, even if they loose their seats on the advisory committees – though it’s the advisory committees members who vote for the directors on the board.

The shareholders alliance is also taking issue with the timing of the review, arguing that the co-ops rules required the review to be carried out before the end of June. However, it was only set out last week, and will be brought before the advisory committees for a final decision tomorrow, Friday, August 9.

While advisory committee members are unpaid, directors received between €15,000 and €27,300 in 2018, the alliance claims.

The purpose of the review is apparently to ensure Kerry Co-op’s electoral areas and representative structure reflects the number of farmers supplying milk, with farmers who do supply being designated ‘A’ shareholders, and farmers who don’t being referred to as ‘B’ shareholders.

Though the latter group will still have a vote in the co-op, they will not be able to stand for election.

The review will also create different electoral areas, from which the advisory committees are elected.

One shareholder, farming in Co. Cork near the Co. Kerry border, will now find himself part of an enlarged electoral area stretching over 50km as far as Tralee.

“It is very disappointing that the board didn’t do their work in a timely fashion,” said David O’Keefe.

“Already the secretary’s review is being questioned and board members are talking about more rule changes. The interpretation of rules is changing from one meeting to the next,” he argued.

The co-op’s current secretary is Thomas Hunter McGowan. It is he that is responsible for conducting the electoral review.

“The rules clearly state that no electoral area can have more than three directors, but two of the new electoral areas will have five sitting directors – none of whom need to be elected to an advisory committee. How can you have that kind of representation?” asked O’Keefe.

He concluded by saying that: “There is an opportunity now for a full discussion on the future of Kerry Co-op.”