MARIETTA: The Georgia Supreme Court agreed today to hear electric utility Cobb EMC’s appeal of a citizen lawsuit against its CEO and Board of Directors, further delaying democratic member representation at the troubled electric cooperative.
Cobb Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) is a democratically controlled cooperative in which members elect a Board of Directors to represent their interests as ratepayers. However, annual Board elections have been postponed since 2007, freezing democratic participation.
“We’re disappointed in this decision cause we feel it keeps the door open for Cobb EMC’s directors to get away with unaccountable practices,” said Joel Mendelson, campaign coordinator for member-based reform group Take Back Cobb EMC. “Cobb EMC is supposed to be controlled by its members. We can’t let the current board continue to set the direction for Cobb EMC without member participation.”
In April 2009 an appeals court ruled that the directors of Cobb EMC violated the terms of a December 2008 settlement agreement that would have moved elections forward when they changed the EMC’s bylaws regarding voting procedure. The settlement resolved an action brought by Cobb EMC members generally alleging breach of fiduciary duty, abuse of control, gross mismanagement, waste of corporate assets, and unjust enrichment by the CEO and several members of the Board. The settlement also required the Cobb EMC board to hold a special public meeting, at which members would have the opportunity to vote on an election procedure submitted by member-plaintiffs.
However, just ten days after agreeing to the settlement, the directors changed their bylaws to allow proxy voting at the special meeting, and approved a proxy statement with their own proposed election procedure – one that gives the Board itself discretion over the security of vote counting. Proxy voting has compromised the integrity of elections at other states’ electric co-ops, allowing blank ballots to count as votes for the incumbent.
“We hope the Georgia Supreme Court will ultimately uphold the appeals court’s ruling so that members will have the opportunity to approve a fair voting procedure and elect board members of their choice as soon as possible,” Mendelson added.
Once the Supreme Court rules on the case, members will have the opportunity to vote and are encouraged to sign up for updates at www.TakeBackCobbEMC.com.
Take Back Cobb EMC is a citizen-based organization representing the concerns that community members have with the current leadership of Cobb EMC.