Time for a Members’ Bill of Rights at Cobb EMC
Take Back Cobb EMC is calling on Cobb EMC to implement and lock in new transparency measures with a Members’ Bill of Rights, to ensure long-term accountability of EMC leadership to EMC members.
Electric utility cooperatives across the country have introduced Members’ Bills of Rights to secure open meetings, open records and fair elections for all co-op members. A fine example is Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC) outside of Austin, Texas, where a 2008 legal scandal resulted in the imprisonment of the co-op’s CEO and election of a new, transparency-focused board. The new board integrated the following members’ bill of rights into PEC’s Articles of Incorporation, making it difficult to dislodge so that no board could run amok with the company.
We urge the incoming Board of Cobb EMC to use this example as a launching point for similar action, tailored to Cobb EMC’s specific needs.
From Pedernales Electric Cooperative’s Articles of Incorporation
Article IX. Member Bill of Rights.
Section 1. Nature of the Bill of Rights. This Article embodies the core elements of Cooperative governance that, because of their fundamental importance, cannot be amended without the consent of the membership. Sections within this Article may not be amended or repealed except by an affirmative vote of two thirds (2/3) of the Board of Directors and the approval of two thirds (2/3) of those Members of the Cooperative voting at a Member Meeting on their own behalf in person, by mail, electronically or by any other method authorized by the Board.
Section 2. Voting and Election Safeguards. A Member has the right to fair and open Director elections, with nomination to the Director ballot by petition. Proxy ballots are prohibited for use in any Director election.
Section 3. Open Meetings. A Member has the right to attend every regular, special or called meeting of the Board of Directors and its committees, except for executive sessions as allowed by policy or law. All meetings shall be called with proper notice, and any final action, decision or vote on a matter shall be made in an open meeting.
Section 4. Open Records. A Member has the right, on written request, to examine and copy at the Member’s expense the records of PEC, except those records exempted from disclosure for reasons of privacy, attorney-client privilege, real estate subject matter, personnel subject matter, security or matters that are clearly competitive, when the Board determines in good faith that disclosure presents a compelling risk of likely harm to the Cooperative or its members.
We hope this example will spark discussion about what a Bill of Rights would look like for Cobb EMC. We must protect our EMC’s membership and keep our company transparent and honest.