FAIR OAKS FARMS — Three high-level executive positions at Fair Oaks Farms and Select Milk Producers have been terminated.
According to a letter from Fair Oaks Farms Chairman Mike McCloskey that was published on social media by a former employee, CEO Gary Corbett’s resignation has been accepted and the positions of COO Julie Basich and CSO Michael McCall have been terminated.
The letter was sent out by McCloskey to Fair Oaks Farms employees on April 25 and states that the personnel decisions were based on circumstances during 2019 (the release of several undercover videos by Animal Recovery Mission alleging animal abuse) and the impact of COVID-19.
“These positions are not intended to be filled in the foreseeable future,” stated McCloskey in the letter. “Gary Corbett had, for the last year, kindly offered to stay on as needed during these difficult times. Gary and Julie have been with Fair Oaks Farms from the start of this great brand. The executive board and the entire Select organization recognizes the outstanding performance, dedication and personal investment that Gary and Julie have had in their 18 years at Fair Oaks Farms and the impact that their efforts have meant in helping create what our brand stands for today.”
McCall has worked on special projects with Fair Oaks Farms since 2006 and full time for the last three years.
“The board and the entire organization thanks Michael McCall for his great talent and vision in shaping Fair Oak Farms’ strategic growth,” McCloskey added in the letter. “Michael has always been an integral part of our brand.”
Jolynn Gosser has agreed to be the interim general manager and McCloskey will remain as chairman.
“Together with Sue, we look forward to continuing our great journey with you,” added McCloskey. “These are difficult times and we are ready for the challenge. We will take a few steps back and, out of necessity, slow things down for a while but we will come out stronger than ever.”
A call to Fair Oaks Farms for comment on the changes was not returned by press time; however, McCloskey did write that they will be awaiting Gov. Eric Holcomb’s plans and guidelines for re-opening the state before plans will be announced for re-opening Fair Oaks Farms.
It is unknown what effect the changes will have on the proposed multi-million-dollar cheese and whey manufacturing plant. The completion date for Select Milk Producers has already been pushed back to the end of 2022.
The cheese and whey manufacturing plant, along with the now-completed hotel, was part of an economic development agreement approved more than three years ago which called for Newton County to do $29 million worth of infrastructure improvements (a new water and sewer plant) to the Fair Oaks corridor.
The infrastructure work was paid for via the selling of $23 million of bonds and then an additional $6 million in grants. The lender for the project was the State’s Revolving Fund (SRF); however, that loan came with milestones that had to be made, which included a completion date of the cheese plant by April 2021. That date appeared not to be reachable, which is why three county boards (commissioners, council, and regional water and sewer district) met last year in September to discuss extending that milestone to Dec. 31, 2022.
Because the agreement was extended, new milestones were put in that need to be met starting this year. If the milestones are not met, there would be a chance the state could call back the loan.
If the state calls back the loan, Select would be required to pay off the $23 million loan, but would then own the water and sewer plant. If Select is unable to pay off the loan or defaults on the agreement, the loan is secured with landfill tipping fees. If that is still not enough then a property tax rate increase would go into effect.