This may be moot by the time in-person voting starts at the annual meeting Saturday at the North Georgia State Fair at Jim R. Miller Park. The reason: for the first time, voting is allowed by mail and the Internet, with a deadline of 5 p.m. today.
Former Congressman Fletcher Thompson, who has tried to get a clear-cut “Bill of Rights” for members adopted, says the EMC’s proposals are “just smoke and mirrors.” He points out that “the press is granted no right to inspect any record,” and the directors “can refuse to permit inspection of any record they want to keep secret by claiming the member wants to see the record out of curiosity or because the record is privileged, confidential or proprietary.”
He is correct. That’s borne out by the EMC’s proposal concerning inspection of records. It says “any inspection may be denied or limited upon one or more” of five “grounds” as follows:
Inspection may be denied or limited if (1) the member refuses to give an affidavit that he wants to see the records “for a purpose reasonably related to the business of the cooperative,” (2) release of the information sought “would unduly infringe upon or invade the privacy of any person,” (3) “the inspection is sought for a dishonest purpose or to gratify mere curiosity or is otherwise inimical to the lawful interest of the cooperative or is not reasonably germane to the interest of the member as such,” (4) the books and records to be inspected deal with “privileged, confidential or proprietary” information, and (5) the member “refuses to warrant and furnish an affidavit” that he has not sold or offered for sale any list of co-op members, does not intend to do so or to aid anyone else in doing so.
The first problem is that Cobb EMC management wants to impose all manner of restrictions and conditions, starting with a requirement that a member-owner desiring to see co-op records must submit an affidavit swearing or affirming that the purpose is “reasonably related to the business of the cooperative” and that no list of members will be sold.
An affidavit, according to the legal definition, is a statement given under oath or affirmation “administered by a person authorized to do so by law.” Normally, this means finding a notary or other authorized person and paying a fee to get an affidavit attested to.
Under the EMC proposal, the management is not only given the sole right to determine what is “reasonably related” to co-op business and what infringes on or invades the privacy “of any person,” but is granted the right and apparently the power to look inside a member’s mind to divine “a dishonest purpose” or “mere curiosity.”
This proposal reads like a bill of rights for EMC management, not for the members. It should be defeated.