Members affirm new board for Buffalo ReUse - The Buffalo News

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Members affirm new board for Buffalo ReUse

Buffalo ReUse voting members recently reaffirmed the organization's new board of directors, capping a saga that led to the firing and rehiring of its founder, the resignation of several board members and the possible loss of its largest funding source.

The vote followed the resignation of four of the six incumbent board members, including board president Stephanie Simeon, from the 10-member board after being elected at the annual meeting.

The four resigned after the membership voted down an agreement, between the board and members' representatives -- not to hold the recent meeting to consider the new board's removal.

"Every new organization has growing pains, and unfortunately we did when we didn't think we would," said Michelle Johnson, the longest-serving board member, who expressed a strong belief that the organization is now back on track.

Simeon declined to comment about her resignation.

It has been a difficult period for the 2 1/2 -year-old Buffalo ReUse, which removes and salvages materials from old buildings marked for demolition. The materials are sold at its ReSource store at 298 Northampton St. on the East Side. The not-for-profit organization also is involved in numerous neighborhood improvement and beautification projects, along with promoting job training and job creation for at-risk young people and adults.

Buffalo ReUse rehired founder Michael Gainer in September, but in a more restricted role after Harvey Garrett, the interim chief executive director, fired him in mid-August with the board's consent.

At the time, Garrett, who was brought in to help get the group's books in order, and the board declined to explain publicly the reasons for Gainer's dismissal.

Gainer, however, acknowledged mistakes in managing finances and communicating with the board.

Gainer, who had been executive director before being demoted to operations manager before his dismissal, was rehired Oct. 19 as program director.

"Michael was wearing too many hats, and now he's focused on what he is best at -- working with people and working with deconstruction and salvaging," Johnson said. "Nobody is going to be good at everything, and we've harnessed his skills.

Gainer's new job will play to his strengths, said Vincent Kuntz, Buffalo ReUse's interim board president.

"We're not going to try and deny that things discussed in the summer were serious issues," he said, "but Michael has talents we want to include in Buffalo ReUse."

Garrett, who resigned but is continuing in an advisory role, suggested that the organization is prepared to do well because of an improved financial outlook.

Whether Buffalo ReUse will continue to receive support from the John R. Oishei Foundation, which has provided more than $200,000 in the last two years, remains to be seen. Some have speculated that it could withdraw the $25,000 yet to be paid, since an open letter from the foundation made clear last month that it took a dim view of an earlier attempt to remove the board.

Oishei Vice President Paul T. Hogan declined to comment on the foundation's future relationship with Buffalo ReUse.

e-mail: msommer@buffnews.com

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