EMC members approve term limits, mail ballots
by Kim Isaza
September 16, 2012 02:11 AM | 3342 views | 12 12 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Members of the Cobb Electric Membership Corporation raise their green cards to signify a vote during Saturday’s 74th annual meeting at Piedmont Church. <br> Photo by Jon-Michael Sullivan
Members of the Cobb Electric Membership Corporation raise their green cards to signify a vote during Saturday’s 74th annual meeting at Piedmont Church.
Photo by Jon-Michael Sullivan
slideshow
Member of the Cobb Electric Membership Corporation and former congressman Fletcher Thompson, right, raises his green card to signify a vote during Saturday’s 74th annual meeting at Piedmont Church. <br> PHoto by Jon-Michael Sullivan
Member of the Cobb Electric Membership Corporation and former congressman Fletcher Thompson, right, raises his green card to signify a vote during Saturday’s 74th annual meeting at Piedmont Church.
PHoto by Jon-Michael Sullivan
slideshow
MARIETTA — Members approved mail-in ballots, director term limits and other efforts at transparency in totally rewritten bylaws for Cobb Electric Membership Corporation, though fewer than one-half of one percent of the utility’s 174,000 members turned out for the 74th annual meeting on a sunny September Saturday.

Still, the 268 members who attended were more than the 150 needed for a quorum. The meeting, held at Piedmont Church in east Cobb, began just after 10 a.m. and lasted more than three hours. Members voted on the four questions by raising lime-green paper fans.

Director Rudy Underwood gave an overview of the bylaws as proposed by the 10-member board of directors. The new rules allow members to attend director meetings and vote in future meetings by mail or electronic balloting, among other provisions. The bylaws also limit directors to serving four, three-year terms (12 years total), an issue that was the subject of later debate on a member-proposed amendment.

“Is it perfect? I doubt it,” Underwood said of the bylaws. Still, he argued that the changes give greater member control over the directors to prevent the same kind of activity that forced members to sue the utility in 2007 and that led to the criminal indictment of former CEO Dwight Brown.

Tom Barksdale, head of the Cobb Alliance for Smart Energy, said his group “finds much to be commended in the bylaws,” but also sees flaws. Among the most serious, he said, were that the board should not have veto power over members’ rights to speak at meetings.

“Clearly these need further refinement,” he said.

Member David Welden recommended the board appoint a committee of members to “cherry pick” the best ideas from members for future changes to the bylaws.

“For now, I recommend we give this board our vote of confidence,” he said.

Members rejected two alternate bylaws proposed by member Paul Chellis: term limits of three, three-year terms (9 years) with an option for a director to be elected again after sitting out one term, and an option for greater proxy voting. Chellis proposed his issues to Cobb EMC on July 5, he said.

“The only argument I heard in favor of 12 years is it’s a long learning curve. Give me a break,” he said. “We’ve seen what can happen with long-entrenched board members. Nine years is long enough.”

Members also rejected former Congressman Fletcher Thompson’s proposed “members bill of rights.” His proposal — originally made at the 2008 members meeting — was not included in the packets mailed to members for this meeting.

It was also the first issue members decided on Saturday, and thus the vote was on whether to add it to the “old” bylaws, which were in effect at that moment. Members were told that if they approved the bill of rights and subsequently approved the new bylaws, the bill of rights would be null, a turnabout that left many scratching their heads.

Thompson’s bill of rights stated, among other provisions, that no Cobb EMC money could pay attorney fees for any officer, director or employee indicted for a felony involving the alleged theft, conversion or embezzlement of Cobb EMC’s funds or property, though if such person were later acquitted of the charges, the company would reimburse his or her fees.

Several speakers lauded Thompson’s efforts but said the board’s new bylaws effectively enacted many of his ideas.

“This new board is here without a bill of rights,” said Butch Thompson, one of the plaintiffs who sued the utility in 2007 and no relation to Fletcher Thompson. “I’m proud of this board. In five months, what they’ve accomplished deserves every vote of confidence.”

Tom Schroeder said he “loves what Fletcher Thompson has done” but suggested the bill of rights be adopted later, calling it an exercise in futility.

“One thing that sticks in all our craws is we’re paying for the defense of Dwight Brown,” he said.

Crystal Miron, of north Cobb, a member for about eight years, pointed out that Fletcher Thompson had been working on his proposal for years.

“The board has had a few months. Give the guy some credit,” she said, urging the members to vote for the bill of rights as a public show of support for the idea.

After the meeting, Fletcher Thompson said he was disappointed.

“I obviously didn’t get what I wanted, but I’m encouraged we’re going to get something good,” he said. “We’ve got a good board. They’re very conscientious.”

Member Andy Padgett of northwest Cobb, a 36-year member of Cobb EMC, said he didn’t vote yea or nay on the bill of rights question “because it was useless. And I think that’s wrong,” he said.

Board Chairman Ed Crowell said after the meeting that the directors would continue discussing whether a bill of rights is warranted in the future.

“But all the things that led to the trouble are gone now,” he said.

This was the fourth time members have gathered in the last year. Last Sept. 17, when members came together for the first time since 2008 to decide a court-ordered question of mail-in ballots, turnout was 3,688 of the 174,000 members, or 2 percent. After that, director elections in November and March both saw turnout around 1 percent.
Comments
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Stacked Deck!!!
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September 21, 2012
The Board should have just had a vote on mail in ballots and then after that passed put their term limits, other bylaws, as well as other proposals such as the Bill of Rights to a mail in vote.

How shameful it is that they stacked the last non-mail in vote meeting with paid EMC employees as well as conducted a vote on the Bill of Rights with the caveat that if they passed the new bylaws, it would be null and void anyway. What chicanery!

It's obvious that Cobb EMC can't govern itself but needs PUC oversight. Any nonsense about increased costs should just be replied to with a comparison of GA Power to the EMC.

It's also about time that the state of Georgia allow residential customers to chose their electrical supplier, especially in high density service areas such as Cobb's. Cobb EMC and GA Power share the same high voltage transmission system anyway. It's called the Georgia Integrated Transmission System or GITS. This system feeds the substations for both GA Power and all GA EMCs. The technology has been around for years to track the energy scheduled by the power supplier to the customer.

It would be very simple for currently captive Cobb EMC customers to have choice, just as they do for natural gas. For both it is only about scheduling with the power or gas transmission provider, metering and accounting.

I guess Cobb EMC would rather let the company founded by Brownies' buddy Cliff Hare, EDF Trading NA (formerly Eagle Energy Trading Partners) have unfettered use of Cobb's generation and transmission assets, for their own profit, than do the right thing for it's customers; as well as continue to have JW Rayder rubber stamp the contracts negotiated and managed, without any oversight, by Anis Sherali.

Fletcher Thompson needs to pursue this angle instead of waiting for the powers at Cobb EMC to get straight. It's not going to happen any more likely than an the likely hood of a plucked chicken flying.

eyes on
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September 18, 2012
I thought Tripper was going to clean up everything when elected. I can't believe he voted against the "Bill of Rights" amend from F. Thompson. My how quickly he changed.

I think 12 years is too long and highly support 9 years and out. It only takes one year to go through the exercise of what is expected. I guess the more meetings, the more money
reply to eyes on
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September 21, 2012
I agree 12 years is too long.

Concerning Tripper Sharp, ONE PERSON can only do so much on a 10 member board! Never doubt, however, that he is the best friend the owner members have or will ever have!
Old Doc
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September 16, 2012
The board must be composed of a bunch of such simple people that they couldn't identify a pumpkin patch in September. 12 years!?!?!? Hogwash!!! It's still fleece the members for the coin!!!

I'll be a watchin!!!
Roger Daltry
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September 16, 2012
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
REPLY TO ROGER DALTR
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September 21, 2012
Times they are a changing, Roger, that is, if the board gets a new CEO, and gets rid of the old executive committee. And, if the new board of directors elects a different board chairman.
Disgraceful
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September 16, 2012
Clearly we need better people on the Board of Directors. This article did not emphasize that Mr. Thompson was promised by Chip Nelson that his Bill of Rights would be presented as an amendment to the new By-Laws and not rendered irrelevant.

However, Ed Crowell just announced that the order was changed without explanation. It is obvious that far too many of these Directors are too entwined with Dwight Brown's leftover management staff.

To the Hon. Fletcher Thompson, I apologize on behalf the lying Board of Directors, the members who were mainly EMC staff who were also paid for that day for "registration" and continue to vote in a block.

I apologize on behalf of the owner-members who did not bother to show up to vote so they could outnumber the staff. Mr. Crowell announced that unhappy members could apply to the PSC for a change of electricity providers. I will be applying Monday morning.
Cobb EMC Member
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September 16, 2012
Just another shame meeting ( controlled by EMC management and overpaid employess) - where was the accountability, transparency and monopoly member/owners rights in the new take it or leave it bylaws ? absent, Mr. Dwight Brown must be laughing - the forensic audit has begun ?

Just another empty promise and we still have the highest rates in the area. This annual member meeting could have been "managed" in the EMC board room with employee/members with badges doing all the voting.
Cobb EMC Member
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September 16, 2012
Time will tell in Congressman Thompson will file action relative to the handling of his well thought out bill of rights - Retail customers are monopoly customers - what's all this crap about commercial customers who can go elsewhere once in the history of the accunt. What about the other 150,000 monopoly members ?
Dont' Forget
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September 16, 2012
1. We got our EMC back from those that would use it for their personal atm. Now what about making the board members be bonded to protect the owners (us).

2. We cannot forget about the audit and the prosecution of any board members, officers, attorneys, employees etc. that enriched themselves illegally during the dark days of the EMC's takeover by the "Brown gang" as I heard it called. I want my money back before the thieves have any longer to hide or spend it.
Member who was there
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September 16, 2012
“We’ve seen what can happen with long-entrenched board members. Nine years is long enough.”

Mr. Chellis, you say nine years is long enough, yet your amendment allowed for a director to serve 9 years, sit out three, and then could be elected again and possible serve another 9 years. And the cycle could repeat itself for years on end. If 9 years is enough, why not 9 years and no more. You dislike the 12 year plan that was adopted, yet that plan is 12 and you're done, you can't ever run again. Your amendment could certainly lead to more of the "long-entrenched" board members than what was approved yesterday. Personally, I salute the new board. You have worked long and hard in the 5 months you've been together and have made many needed changes. Mr. Chellis, why not let them do they job they were elected to do and see what happens?
I was there too
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September 18, 2012
The problem with long-entrenched incumbency is the historic difficulty with defeating an incumbent. The three-year lapse, whereby a director who had served nine years would have to sit out three years before being eligible to run again, would mean that once that director came back after three years he/she would no longer be an incumbent but would instead probably be running against the present incumbent. This mechanism would hopefully have led to the worst former directors not being able to stage a comeback, while allowing directors who had previously performed well on behalf of the members to hsve a chance of returning if they chose to do so.

Was there a self-serving rush to judgment by the Board at large that made them scramble for any flimsy excuse to justify them serving 12 years ? It would by no means be automatic that a former director would or could stage a comeback after being off the board three years.
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