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Executive Director of SEE-LA and Hollywood Farmers Market Fired

Hollywood market
Hollywood market
Felicia Friesema

Pompea Smith, Executive Director of SEE-LA and founder of the Hollywood Farmers Market, was fired on Tuesday evening, following private meetings of the non-profit's board of directors. Smith had been a part of the market and SEE-LA for over 20 years. The official statement issued by the board is short on details, saying only, "the board of directors has decided that, in the best interests of SEE-LA and the communities it serves, it is time for a change of leadership."

A consultant will serve as the Interim executive until a candidate search has been completed. Full text of the official statement after the jump.

Smith had managed to quietly run the 21-year old market without much controversy for the majority of her time there, propelling the market into the local food movement and expanding into under served communities. That quiet ended last year, when a disagreement with the L.A. Film School threatened to shut down the market unless some kind of agreement could be reached. Smith had been publically praised for her strong refusal to compromise with the school.

But privately, some market supporters wondered if the whole debacle could have been prevented with some proactive community outreach. At a March 27, 2011 meeting, SEE-LA stated that they had $25,000 in legal bills related to the film school disagreement, and only had $30,000 in cash on hand. No agreement has yet been reached -- the permit was granted through the office of Councilmember Eric Garcetti with the promise that the issue would be reviewed again in the coming year.

The crux of the motive behind Smith's firing seems to come from a March 2012 report compiled by Essergy Consulting, which suggested that SEE-LA needed a, "more inclusive management style." Smith could not be reached for comment.

The full statement from the board's Chair, Michael Woo is as follows:

The Board of Directors is deeply grateful to Pompea Smith for her 16 years of inspired leadership of this organization. Pompea played the visionary role of cultivating the Hollywood Farmers Market from a kernel of an idea to its current status as the largest certified farmers market in the City of Los Angeles. She created the vision which led to the establishment of seven other farmers markets, which have had a salutary impact on many families especially in lower-income areas of the city, and other food and nutrition programs which have helped to make Los Angeles one of the capitals of the "good food" movement.

The Board of Directors has decided that, in the best interests of SEE-LA and the communities it serves, it is time for a change of leadership. For this reason, Pompea Smith is no longer CEO of SEE-LA. The board has appointed Brenda Zamzow-Frazier, a consultant with extensive experience in nonprofit organization operations and financial management, to serve as Interim CEO, e!ective immediately, until a formal search for a permanent CEO is concluded.


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