The abrupt resignation of Kim Ford as the president and CEO of Martha’s Table, headquartered in Ward 8 in Southeast, due to conflicts with its board of directors has many ward leaders shocked, outraged and seeking an explanation.
On Feb. 3, Ford sent out an email to supporters explaining why she decided to leave the job she had held for three years.
“Throughout my tenure, the board has been extremely abusive towards me,” she said. “They have publicly threatened and humiliated me on many occasions, manipulated the team, sabotaged the organization and spoken very negatively about the community. I was told that the behaviors would be addressed, people would be held accountable and things would get better.”
“Instead, the behaviors got worse. I asked for help repeatedly. I was even uncharacteristically vulnerable in telling them several times about how much their treatment had harmed my mental, emotional and physical well-being, and I even gave specific examples of the impact—but that was ignored,” Ford stated.
In response, Philip Pannell, the executive director of the Anacostia Coordinating Council (ACC), a Ward 8 nonprofit, sent out an email on Feb. 4 expressing his organization’s indignation regarding Ford’s resignation.
“The resignation of Kim Ford from Martha’s Table is a shock to the east of the river community,” the email said. “She has been an extraordinary and exemplary nonprofit leader whose work has been superlative and commitment to the community unquestioned. She has brought an energy and spirit to her work that has been infectious and contagious which has mutually benefitted the community and Martha’s Table.”
The email requested a virtual meeting between the ACC and the board to discuss the matter.
On Feb. 7, ACC re-sent its prior email requesting a meeting with the board with the addition of ward leaders indicating support for Ford.
Troy D. Prestwood, the president of the Ward 8 Democrats, signed onto the Feb. 7 email expressing “shock” about Ford’s dilemma.
“I was shocked and utterly speechless to learn of the abuse, ridicule and downright disrespect Kim said she experienced under the thumb of Martha’s Table’s board,” Prestwood said. “Kim is one of the smartest and most compassionate persons I know. She led Martha’s Table in service to our ward during one of the worse health and economic crisis in our history. This is on top of all the other work she and her team did each day for individuals and families’ food and financial insecurities. If these allegations are true, she deserved better. Their actions may have caused irreparable harm to the community. This is not OK.”
Olivia Henderson, who serves as the advisory neighborhood commissioner for district 8D02 and leads the Washington Highlands Civic Association, also added her name on the ACC email.
Henderson said Ford “stood for the betterment of the community.”
“The community should stand with Kim Ford,” Henderson said, “She did a lot for the community during the pandemic. The board needs to listen to her and change their attitude toward her.”
Charles Wilson, the chairman of the Historic Anacostia Block Association, who also chairs the D.C. Democratic State Committee, also consented to be on the ACC email and expressed his concerns at Ford’s resignation.
“To say I would be surprised would be an understatement,” Wilson said. “Kim has been the public face for Martha’s Table. Throughout the whole time she served as president, she wore a happy face. When I read the details of the letter, I was shocked at the abusive relationship she had with the board. I hope she’s OK emotionally and mentally. I hope she is talking to someone to help her through this process.”
On Feb. 8, the board responded to The Informer’s request for a comment.
“More than ever before, our community depends on Martha’s Table for leadership and wide-ranging programs of support,” said the statement from the board. “We are grateful to Kim Ford for her contributions to our community and our organization, especially at this time when so many are suffering due to the impact of the global pandemic.”
“We wish Kim well in her future endeavors, celebrate the impact she’s made and hope that we can together move forward on our bold Strategic Plan that reflects the vision and voices of our community and was created under Kim’s leadership. We will continue to strongly embrace the core values that Martha’s Table has always championed, including putting the needs of our communities first.”
Pannell told The Informer on Feb. 8 that a private virtual meeting will take place on Feb. 10 to discuss Ford’s departure and her allegations. He said participants will consist of ACC leadership, the board, D.C. Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8) and a small group of ward leaders.