Cobb EMC in 2012 – Progress Being Made But Big Challenges Remain

Coming up on Saturday, September 15th is a huge event for the Membership of Cobb EMC, the first Annual Membership meeting not mandated by court order since 2007. A major re-write of the bylaws is being proposed by the new Board of Directors and two additional modifications are being proposed by one of your fellow members, Paul Chellis.

July 26th Town Hall Meeting Recap

Leading up to the Annual Membership meeting, The Cobb EMC Board held a Town Hall meeting on July 26 of this year. Starting off the meeting was a presentation by Board Chairman Ed Crowell with input also being provided by several Board members. The floor was then opened to Member questions and several well reasoned and pertinent questions were raised. Some key takeaways from the Town Hall meeting for me were:

  • The Board was working on a bylaw re-write to be presented for vote at the upcoming annual meeting to include provisions for open board meetings, term limits, and mail in voting,
  • Work was forging ahead on the Request for Proposals (RFP) for capacity and energy and in excess of 70 viable bids have been received. Economics appear very favorable and justify the recent decision by our new Board of Directors to withdraw from the expensive boondoggle known as Plant Washington (aka Power4Georgians),
  • Cobb EMC expects that the aforementioned RFP will enable it to cut its ties to Energy Consulting Group (ECG), as well as Cooperative Energy Incorporated (CEI) who are currently providing Cobb EMC with Energy Management Services on a “no bid” basis, and
  • Cobb EMC is cutting its formerly expensive and questionable relationship with J. W. Rayder and allowing his contract reimbursing him up to $30,000/month to expire.

The overall tone of the meeting was open and congenial and yours truly was very encouraged that the new Board of Directors has made real progress in their inaugural year. The Town Hall meeting itself was an excellent example of our new Board of Directors reaching out to the Membership.

Re-write of the Bylaws and EMC Member Amendments – Vote Yes

The Town Hall meeting notwithstanding, there are several things that are unsettling. The board has performed what is essentially a complete re-write of the bylaws. The schedule upon which they have undertaken this has left no room for a Member comment period, so we are left with the choice of an up or down vote on the complete package on September 15th. The bylaws have only been recently made available so there has really been little time for anyone to review the content in detail. My read of the new bylaws is that we should vote for them primarily because of the mail-in voting and open meeting provisions. However, as I stated above, one of your fellow EMC members, Paul Chellis, has submitted two additional amendments to the bylaws that I strongly urge everyone to vote for.

One is a modification to the Board proposed 4 term (or 12 year) limit. Paul’s amendment calls for a three term (or 9 year) limit, with the caveat that if a former Director leaves for a term, he or she may then run in the following election three years later. I believe a three term limit is more reasonable particularly when we think back on the result of an entrenched board and how difficult it has been for Members to regain control of our EMC. The primary argument that the Director job is “too difficult to learn” to impose a 9 year limit is a little silly when one compares their job to that of the President of the United States. Last I checked that job has an eight year limit.
Paul’s second amendment provides for something many of us have complained about: the ability to give a written proxy to another Member if you cannot make a voting meeting. Paul’s amendment allows you to do that. It also contains a protection against the EMC collecting proxies to entrench incumbent Directors by preventing employees or directors of the EMC from receiving a proxy. Mr. Crowell, our Chairman, has gone on record saying that proxies impose a risk of a special interest group collecting proxies to swing an election. I believe this is disingenuous given that the Board’s draft of the bylaws already contains a provision for proxies by commercial and industrial customers (without any restriction on those proxies being held and voted by incumbent Directors). The Board has also contended that proxies aren’t necessary because of the mail in voting provision in the new bylaws. This argument also falls short because the new bylaws only specify mail in voting for Director elections. The new bylaws still provide broad leeway for other matters to be considered only in the context of a Member Meeting where one must attend to vote. We need proxies to assure our voice is heard in matters concerning our EMC.

Other Concerns

The last several years saw significant erosion of our rights to participate in decisions made at our Member owned EMC. The new Board of Directors that we fought so hard to elect has made real progress to restore some of those rights, but still they need to remember why they were elected. Bylaw re-writes, even with some good enhancements, should have significant opportunity for Member participation and comment and this has definitely not occurred. While I am recommending that we approve the new bylaws, the new bylaws do have several flaws that will need to be addressed over time (and these have only been identified with a very short review time; I am not aware of any Member that has been able to make a detailed comparison to the previous bylaws in the time we have had thus far). For one, the open meetings provision is very watered down when compared to the one approved at the Pedernales Electric Cooperative in Texas after they went through a series of problems very similar to our own. In a story that will sound familiar to Cobb EMC Members, Pedernales General Manager Bennie Fuelberg was convicted of third- degree felony theft of co-op funds, money laundering and misappropriation of fiduciary

property. In light of a similar fiasco at our EMC, many Members feel that the Pedernales bylaw revisions should have been more heartily endorsed by our new Board of Directors. A second flaw in the re-write concerns a provision hastily included in the February 2010 set of bylaw changes made by the old Board of Directors while they were in the midst of damage control and the appeals battle with the plaintiffs in the derivative litigation lawsuit. This change required a 70 to 100 day lead time to submit proposed changes to bylaws prior to an annual meeting. Since 1938, Members had been able to make proposals from the floor at the Annual Member meeting that would be voted on immediately. According to the plaintiff’s legal filings, this right is part of the enabling legislation for EMCs. The new re-write extends the restrictions on Member proposals even further, requiring a full 100 days lead time and 35 Member signatures on any Member sponsored bylaw change. While Members may gain the floor and request a vote on a Member proposal, no such vote is binding unless the proposal is submitted with the appropriate hundred day lead time. These provisions will make it significantly more difficult to make further progress at our EMC. Let’s vote yes on the new bylaws, and definitely vote yes on the Paul Chellis amendments. But we need to maintain vigilance and be aware that we need some significant additional bylaw changes to be ratified at the 2013 Member meeting. Mark A. Hackett A Cobb EMC Member

We’re Still Here!

 Cobb EMC elections are behind us, but we must stay vigilant and involved to ensure that the reforms we fought so hard for actually happen. Take Back Cobb EMC was one of the catalysts that ushered in new leadership promising good governance and democracy at Cobb EMC, and we’re proud to announce that we’ll be leading the member-based effort to enact a strong and thorough forensic audit, open board meetings, and other crucial reforms. We are confident the board is moving in the right direction; we’ll be following it and keeping members apprised when we need to take action.

The new board has already taken steps to move past the days of Dwight Brown. It is reviewing forensic audit firms with a view toward engaging one in the next couple months. However, the board has been unable to agree on key reforms like open meetings and term limits. We’ll let you know about opportunities to weigh in. For example, Cobb EMC’s annual meeting is in September and we’ll need to attend the meeting to make sure we keep up our end of the bargain and remain responsible member-owners of Cobb EMC.

Members fought tirelessly to secure the election of new and accountable leadership, but we cannot step aside. Our job isn’t finished.  We must remain committed, vigilant, and ready to take action. After all, what use is transparency if no one’s watching?

What’s next? The Forensic Audit

The new board is working hard to ensure that a thorough forensic audit happens, but we need to make sure the public is aware of not only what a forensic audit is, but what needs to be included in the audit. The indictment against Dwight Brown alleges that significant amounts of money left Cobb EMC illegally under his watch, and the only way to track every penny is through a robust and comprehensive forensic audit that not only focuses on where the money went, but who received it.

Some areas that we believe should be included in the audit:

  • The creation, financing, and management of Cobb Energy
  • Cobb EMC’s relationship with Power4Georgians and Plant Washington, including land deals and ex-Cobb-Energy-VP Dean Alford
  • Cobb EMC’s relationship with Energy Consulting group and its leader, Anis Sherali
  • Cobb EMC’s relationship with J.W. Rayder, including his $30,000 a month to lead the Gas South management committee plus $40,000 a month to consult
  • Cobb Energy’s various (now liquidated) subsidiaries
  • Cobb EMC’s relationship with Eagle Energy Partners

If you’re interested in learning more about the forensic audit process, especially how it relates to utility co-ops, please feel free to take a look at the audit (LINK) conducted at Pedernales Electric Cooperative near Austin, Texas. Over the last decade, PEC experienced similar issues to those we’ve faced at Cobb EMC. After electing a new board, it brought in Navigant, an auditing firm that helped secure the answers that the new board and PEC members needed and deserved.

Stay Involved!

We need to keep EMC members informed, and make sure our new board members know we’re behind them. Now is the time for us to share our thoughts and concerns with others. A great way to do that is to submit Letters to the Editor at the Marietta Daily Journal and other local newspapers. If you’d like to submit a Letter to the Editor, an opinion piece to a local newspaper, or just to get involved with TBCE, please contact Joel at joel@takebackcobbemc.com

Let’s get to work!

Don’t Believe It!

We’ve received reports that Jim and Tripper’s opponents are attempting to frighten voters with false and misleading information. Rest assured that Take Back Cobb EMC teamed up with the majority of plaintiffs in the 2007 derivative suit to promote the candidates who have demonstrated their commitment to reform over time. We would like to hear if you have received questionable phonecalls, flyers, emails, or other campaign materials; please report them to joel@takebackcobbemc.com, and save or record any materials you receive as best you can.

VOTE Saturday in EMC Runoff Elections!

Runoff elections for Areas 4 and 5 are on Saturday and it’s time for us to elect the right leadership to the board. Jim Hudson and Tripper Sharp need your votes on Saturday to ensure that we elect leadership that’s accountable to the members, not EMC management.

Polls will be open this Saturday, April 21 from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Piedmont Church in Marietta. Remember, as long as you’re in the parking lot by 3 p.m., you’re allowed to vote!

Please remind your friends, neighbors, and colleagues who are Cobb EMC members about Saturday’s election and just how important this is for all of us. Every single vote for Jim and Tripper is crucial and they’re going to need all of us to turn out one last time. If they don’t win, it is likely that we will not get the strong, thorough forensic audit we need, meetings could stay closed, and EMC management may once again control the board. Jim and Tripper will keep that from happening and their voices will help secure the reforms we need.

VOTE

Area 4: Jim Hudson

   Area 5: Tripper Sharp

Election Details:

WherePiedmont Church, 570 Piedmont Rd. Marietta, GA 30066

Time: 8 a.m. until 3 p.m.

*Registration will continue through the day at the check-in table

**As long as you are in line by 3 p.m., you will be allowed to vote.

What to bring: A photo I.D.

 Proxy (if necessary)

Proxies:

If you are voting by proxy, please click the above links for the proxy form and ballot application, and fill them out completely. Remember, a proxy can only be the spouse of a member or an adult child (18 or older) that lives in the home of the member. Proxies will need to bring the filled out forms and their photo I.D. to be allowed to vote.

Remember, one vote per household!

Vote Jim Hudson-Area 4

Vote Tripper Sharp-Area 5

Congrats new board members; runoffs on 4/21!

Congratulations new board members!

Cobb EMC members are one step closer to entirely new, accountable leadership after electing four new board members on March 31. Take Back Cobb EMC congratulates those four. We know they are going to work hard to bring transparency and accountability back to Cobb EMC.

Your winners are:

Rudy Underwood—Area 2

Kelly Bodner—Area 3

Bryan Boyd—Area 8

Eric Broadwell—Area 9

Runoff elections on April 21

Runoff elections for Areas 4 and 5 are scheduled for April 21 and two very strong candidates need your support. TBCE- and plaintiff-supported candidates Jim Hudson and Tripper Sharp face staunch opposition from David McClellan and Charles Sevier, and it is up to us to ensure that we elect Jim and Tripper to the board.

Tripper is one of the original plaintiffs in the derivative lawsuit against Cobb EMC and has fought tirelessly for reform at Cobb EMC for nearly five years. Jim has been an EMC member for nearly 25 years and brings an extensive leadership background that will ensure Cobb EMC is well managed and protects the investment of its members.

In the runoff election, every vote counts. For Jim and Tripper to win, it’s going to take each and every one of us coming to Piedmont Church on April 21 and, for the final time, casting our vote for reform at Cobb EMC. Any Cobb EMC member can vote for both seats, regardless of what area you live in.

Please let every one of your friends, neighbors, and colleagues who are Cobb EMC members know just how important it is to vote for Jim and Tripper on April 21. They’re counting on us, and we’re counting on them.

Please continue to visit our website for the latest information on the runoff election, and remember to vote for Jim Hudson and Tripper Sharp on April 21 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Piedmont Church in Marietta!

Let’s Bring the Campaign to an End

From Take Back Cobb EMC:

“We are calling on the second place candidates in Area 4 and 5—David McClellan and Charles Sevier respectively—to do the honorable thing and concede the race to the first place candidates. A runoff for Areas 4 and 5 would cost the EMC and its members an estimated $250,000. That’s more member money, and more hours EMC employees are spending away from their families, and it’s not the kind of financially responsible decision members want. Mr. McClellan and Mr. Sevier are strong candidates who have brought a lot to this election, but it’s time to bring this hard fought effort to an end.”

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VOTE Saturday in FINAL Round of EMC Elections!

The final round of elections has arrived and it’s time for us to vote for new and accountable leadership on the Cobb EMC Board of Directors. Elections will be held Saturday, March 31 from 8am to 3pm at Piedmont Church in Marietta. Seats 2, 3, 4, 5, 8 and 9 are up for election;  remember, you vote for ALL seats, regardless of where you live.

Registration and voting for the elections begins at 8am, with a members’ meeting starting at 9:30am. Polls will remain open until 3pm and as long as you are in the parking lot by 3pm, you will be allowed to vote. Alternate parking will be available at Daniell Middle School, with shuttles provided to the polls. You do not need to attend the 9:30 meeting to vote, but we recommend that you do! 

Please remind your friends, neighbors and colleagues who are Cobb EMC members about Saturday’s elections. A majority of the board seats are up for election and the results will determine whether we see the transparency, accountability, and honesty we have fought so hard to bring back to Cobb EMC. We have already witnessed apparent attempts by the EMC’s management to support certain candidates, many of whom did not even vote in prior elections. We need every Cobb EMC member we can find to come out and cast their vote for committed reformers! If they would like more information, please direct them to our website or have them contact us.

Take Back Cobb EMC, along with a majority of the plaintiffs who sued Cobb EMC for accountability in 2007, have endorsed the following slate for the election. For additional information about these candidates, please visit TBCE’s candidate webpage.

Area 3: Kelly Bodner

Area 4: Jim Hudson

Area 5: Tripper Sharp

Area 8: Bryan Boyd

Area 9: Eric Broadwell

Election Details:

WherePiedmont Church, 570 Piedmont Rd. Marietta, GA 30066

Time: 8am: Registration and Voting begins*

9:30am: Meeting begins

3pm: Polls close**

*Registration will continue through the day at the check-in table

**As long as you are in line by 3 p.m., you will be allowed to vote.

What to bring: A photo I.D.

 

 Proxy (if necessary)

Proxies:

If you are voting by proxy, please click the above links for the proxy form and ballot application, and fill them out completely. Remember, a proxy can only be the spouse of a member or an adult child (18 or older) that lives in the home of the member. Proxies will need to bring the filled out forms and their photo I.D. to be allowed to vote.

Remember, one vote per household!