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Marin Agricultural Land Trust CEO resigns after brief tenure

Marin Agricultural Land Trust CEO resigns after brief tenure

The chief executive officer of the Marin Agricultural Land Trust is stepping down just nine months into the job, the organization announced Thursday.

MALT released no reason for Thane Kreiner’s resignation. He will be replaced by Jennifer Carlin, MALT’s director of advancement.

Kreiner could not be reached for comment.

Robert McGee, chairman of MALT’s board, said, “We appreciate the ideas and vision that Thane brought to MALT.”

Carlin “will prioritize the closing of new agricultural conservation easements and the ongoing care for Marin’s working farms and ranches, through MALT’s stewardship assistance program and programs such as last year’s drought resilience and water security initiative,” the organization said in its announcement.

Kreiner’s departure comes as the Marin County Board of Supervisors is weighing whether to continue allocating a designated amount of Measure A funds to assist MALT in purchasing agricultural easements. Measure A sunsets on March 31, and preparations are underway to place an initiative on the June 7 ballot to extend it.

In mid-November, Marin County Parks Director Max Korten released a draft of a new expenditure plan for Measure A that would have cut the overall allocation for agriculture from 20% to 10%. Under that plan, no set amount of Measure A funds would have been designated for easements.

Currently, 95% of the Measure A funds going to agriculture is earmarked for farmland preservation.

“That caught us off guard,” MALT board member Andrew Giacomini said during a meeting with the Independent Journal editorial board earlier this month.

About 54,000 of the county’s more than 100,000 acres of agricultural land are protected by MALT conservation easements.

During the editorial board meeting, Giacomini said the parks department might be feeling pressure to cut MALT’s funding from people upset with the general management plan update for Point Reyes National Seashore, which extends how long cattle ranchers can rent parkland, and people who want the county to spend more on wildfire prevention.

Supervisors rejected Korten’s new expenditure plan when they met on Dec. 14, saying they thought the reduction in overall funding for agriculture was too large. They did not, however, rule out the possibility of eliminating earmarks for agricultural easements. Supervisor Katie Rice said she liked the idea.

Kreiner’s departure is the latest episode in a turbulent period for MALT.

Last year, MALT was embroiled in controversy when Ross resident Ken Slayen accused it of using Measure A funds to enrich current and former board members. Slayen lodged his accusations after his 2015 bid for a conservation easement from the nonprofit was rejected.

In 2019, after the dispute with Slayen began, MALT altered its conflict-of-interest policy prohibiting sitting board members and their immediate families from selling easements to MALT.

In 2020, Jeff Stump, the nonprofit’s director of conservation, and Jamison Watts, MALT’s director, resigned.

Marin County Counsel Brian Washington and the State Fair Political Practices Commission looked into Slayen’s assertions and found no wrongdoing.

Kreiner, a scientist and biotech entrepreneur, was hired in March.

“I’m not a traditional candidate because I don’t have experience in land trusts,” Kreiner said at the time.

He added, “The fact that MALT was interested in considering someone who is more of an entrepreneur and innovator and social impact leader is testament to the direction that the board of directors and the team would like to see MALT move.”

Kreiner said he envisioned MALT playing a leading role in making Marin a global model for a regenerative local agriculture.

Giacomini said he didn’t know why Kreiner resigned. Korten also said he had no idea.

“I’ve only barely met Thane,” Korten said. “We certainly did talk. He mentioned they were interested in pursuing a broader set of goals than perhaps MALT had in the past and getting interested in more stewardship work and equity-focused work. I definitely heard that in our conversations.”

Asked if Kreiner’s abrupt departure will damage MALT’s public image, Giacomini said, “I hope it doesn’t undermine anyone’s confidence. It shouldn’t.”

Reacting to the news, Susan Ives of Mill Valley, who has called for eliminating all Measure A funding for agricultural easements, said, “MALT has been the face of Marin’s ranching romance for 50 years. It seems to have lost its glow.”

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