AREA 1 (DON BARNETT)
Residence: Cobb County
Family: Children Natalie, Johnathan, Trey; mother Myrtle Woodward; brothers David and Richard
Occupation: Restaurant owner
Education: Graduate of North Cobb High School, class of 1968
Other Community Activities: Board member, WellStar Health System; board member, Cobb Fair Board.
If elected, what is your main objective as a director?To bring fiscal accountability and fiscal conservatism to the Board.
Do you know anything about running an electric utility? Yes.
Do you favor a forensic audit? Why or why not? Yes. I believe that the previous board members and management have hidden information from the owners of Cobb EMC.
Do you support the recently announced transparency initiatives? If not, why? Yes.
Do you favor Cobb EMC, with Power 4 Georgians, building the coal-fired Plant Washington? I do not have enough information at this time to reach a definitive decision regarding the need for a new plant. However, based on the information that I do have at this time, I do not believe this additional expenditure is appropriate or necessary at this time.
Are you seeking the endorsement of any of the reform groups? Why or why not? Yes. I would appreciate the endorsement of any group in Cobb County.
One of those groups, the Cobb EMC Owner's Association, hopes that candidates who go through its vetting process but are not endorsed will support the one candidate it endorses in each area. If CEOA does not endorse you, would you drop out and support their endorsee? Why or why not? No. My commitment to the customers of Cobb EMC is not dependant on the endorsement of any particular group.
Residence: Powder Springs
Family: Wife Cynthia; daughter Kayla, son Thomas
Occupation: President and CEO, Georgia Motor Trucking Association, Inc., a statewide not-for-profit member-based organization.
Education: Bachelor's in political science from Liberty University; and a master's in political science from Georgia State University. I have also completed a variety of other business courses, including finance and accounting for non-financial managers program from Georgia Tech.
Other Community Activities: Current member of the Cobb Neighborhood Safety Commission (three years) and Cobb Chamber of Commerce. I am also a current member of Governor's Private Sector Advisory Task Force, several task forces or committees for Georgia DOT, and the Atlanta Regional Commission. Past activities include serving as youth soccer coach for Cobb Football; volunteer at Polk Street Players; work on various church committees (finance, personnel, etc.) and as an adult Sunday school teacher. I have been - and continue to be - an occasional volunteer with shelters and various church and charity projects.
If elected, what is your main objective as a director?The role of a board member is to help get the best from the management team and keep management on the "straight and narrow," to protect the interest of members, the integrity of the organization and its employees. That will be my objective and touchstone as a director. The old Latin phrase "cui bono," or "who benefits?" is a question for a board member to always ask. If the answer isn't one of those three, alarms should go off in a director's head. My career has given me 20 years of experience in effectively representing someone else's interests instead of my own - that's what a board member needs to do. That experience will help me be an active part of ensuring the new board is a solid, functional group that provides the fealty, diligence and direction Cobb EMC, its members and employees deserve. People should read about Cobb EMC because someone got promoted, we did something good for the community, or we've cut rates again, not for lawsuits or claims of malfeasance.
Do you know anything about running an electric utility? My background includes some experience with regulated utilities, with the agencies utilities must work with, and with the accounting, rate setting and other processes unique to utilities, but not in specific operations of an electric utility. However, I am not running to be CEO. It's the role of the management team to run the utility. It is the role of the board to question, examine and help ensure that management stays focused on protecting the interest of the members. I have a decades-long record of successfully working in these areas and a base of knowledge that will aid in understanding specific matters for Cobb EMC. In short, I know enough to keep learning, to ask questions, grasp answers, and offer guidance - to be an active and proactive board member.
Do you favor a forensic audit? Why or why not?Completely, but not yet. There is a lot to discuss and decide when it comes to any audit, including setting scope and parameters for the auditors. Those decisions are board decisions. ... Once the elections are complete, the new board should address the issue and undertake whatever type and scope of work is needed to ensure things are as they should be.
Do you support the recently announced transparency initiatives? If not, why? Yes, with some of the same caveats as above. When all elections are complete the new board should review all these decisions. It is important to make certain that "transparency" is conducted in a way that truly effectively communicates with members in an ongoing fashion. Right now a lot of members are paying attention - but as their focus moves to other things, just being "transparent" might not be enough. I want to make certain that in two years or 20, members are still well informed. That may require something more proactive from Cobb EMC and the board than just the changes made to date.
Do you favor Cobb EMC, with Power 4 Georgians, building the coal-fired Plant Washington? I support planning and preparing for the future, especially to keep service quality and opportunities growing for our members. The need for base load power generation will only increase over time; it is better for Cobb EMC to be in a position to control production of the electricity needed than to grow more reliant on the vagaries of the wholesale market. But again, this is another area where a new board review is merited. There are many factors that can't be fully vetted without being on the board. My leanings are toward supporting it, but with an open mind to examine costs, federal regulatory issues (which are in real flux) commitments to partners, environmental tradeoffs, etc. I am fully committed to ensuring Cobb EMC fulfills its mission of providing energy while being a good corporate citizen, but just don't have enough information to be totally definitive about this specific project, yet.
Are you seeking the endorsement of any of the reform groups? Why or why not? Absolutely; especially the Cobb EMC Owners Association, which has been the lead on much of this; their review and endorsement of my candidacy would be most welcome. The people involved in CEOA have demonstrated that they want the EMC to get back to business and stay true to its purpose and mission for the benefit of the members generally. I want the same and think I can help make that happen. So I would welcome being endorsed by them.
If CEOA does not endorse you, would you drop out and support their endorsee? Why or why not? That would depend entirely on the candidate they chose. I am involved because I want to help improve Cobb EMC and my skill set, background, experience and temperament give me the tools to be a useful director - an effective help in moving Cobb EMC forward. I didn't get into this for a joyride or ego trip. If they conclude there is someone who can do a better job of that than I can, I would feel obligated to stop and consider their reasoning.
AREA 6 (AL FORTNEY)
Residence: Acworth (Bartow County)
Family: Wife Elaine; two grown children, two grandchildren.
Occupation: Retired from the Cobb Tax Commissioner's Office in 2011; Retired from the U.S. Navy with the rank of Captain in 1994.
Education: bachelor's in business administration and master's with honors, University of Georgia; master's in business administration with honors, University of Florida.
Other Community Activities: Rotary International: Club President 1999-2000, Assistant District Governor 2002-2005, Guardian of Ethics Award, Rotary District 6910 in 2011; Tommy Nobis Center Volunteer Board member since 1994, Chairman of the Board 2001-2002, Thomas A. Slaughter Award (Board "MVP") 2003.
If elected, what is your main objective as a director?To be a positive force on the board, help the management team refocus on the central mission of the cooperative, and contribute to business decisions that reduce the cost of electricity to consumers/owners.
Do you know anything about running an electric utility? I don't think it is necessary that volunteer board members be electric utility managers or technicians. The CEO and his staff manage the day-to-day operations. The CEO comes to the board for advice and direction on organizational planning, resource allocation, approval of business proposals, and so on.
Do you favor a forensic audit? While I recognize that the cooperative needs to move forward after several years of bad decisions, obfuscation and decline in public image, it is entirely possible that a forensic audit would yield evidence of fraud that could be pursued in the courts. It is an issue of public trust to ferret out evidence of mismanagement or personal enrichment that rises to the level of fraud. In my view, the board's central purpose is to serve the public trust.
Do you support the recently announced transparency initiatives? Certainly. Transparency in the operation of the cooperative and in the actions of its CEO and Board of Directors has been the core objective of reform groups such as the Cobb EMC Owners Association, Take Back Cobb EMC and Cobb Alliance for Smart Energy. ... Only with open communication with owner/members can the board achieve its central purpose of serving the public trust.
Do you favor Cobb EMC, with Power 4 Georgians, building the coal-fired Plant Washington? The issue for me is whether it is the best business decision among available alternatives, and I need to see that data to answer this question from a cost/benefit perspective. While I would prefer a cleaner energy option from an environmental perspective alone, I don't think it is reasonable to dismiss coal out of hand as an energy source. Coal is abundant in our country and there are technologies to make coal-fired plants more efficient with lowered emissions. The bottom line for me is how does Plant Washington stack up against alternative projects and were alternative projects given a fair assessment.
Are you seeking the endorsement of any of the reform groups? Yes, I would appreciate the support of members of all of the reform groups.
If the Cobb EMC Owners Association does not endorse you, would you drop out and support their endorsed candidate? Yes, to avoid splitting the vote in favor of the incumbent director.
Patrick G. Longhi
Family: Divorced, one son who is attending college out-of-state
Education: Bachelor's degree in government (political science) with minor in communications, Seton Hall University, New Jersey, 1975. Juris Doctor, Western State University College of Law, California, 1980.
Other Community Activities: Shortly after moving to Cobb County in 1989, formed the Cobb County Citizens' League, and served as president; on the board of the Multi-Bar Leadership Council; serves as a chairman for Law Day.
If elected, what is your main objective as a director?With the current climate and uncertainty about the leadership and direction of the Cobb Electric Management Corporation, I offer the membership a breath of fresh air and the start of a new chapter that can provide continuity for the management and employees allowing them to best serve in their respective roles while providing guidance from a policy-making perspective to enhance the quality of service provided, raise awareness of 21st century strategies and innovations needed to be implemented due to climate change and declining energy resources and create an open, ethical and professional atmosphere in which the cooperative can operate within the sunshine and respect of all concerned.
Do you know anything about running an electric utility? A board of directors is a policymaking body and should not micromanage, interfere or concern itself with the day-to-day operations of a company charged to its management. I did study energy policy as part of my bachelor's degree in government, am trained as a lawyer and have conducted research in the area when drafting public-policy position papers for candidates running for national office. Neither the incumbent nor any other challenger I know of for the area 6 seat has "running an electric utility" experience, nor should they.
Do you favor a forensic audit? Why or why not? I would concur with those calling for a forensic audit to discover, review and refer to appropriate authorities any discrepancies that are found to be out of line with the laws of Georgia and the United States, the rules and regulations under which Cobb EMC operates pursuant to any state agency or its own by-laws and if it is operating within the confines of similar and like non-profit cooperatives of its size and with its mission.
Do you support the recently announced transparency initiatives? If not, why? I also concur with those calling for transparency in all further dealings with the board of directors as it relates to its membership including, but not limited to, open board meetings, full disclosure of compensation for officers and directors and providing company information comparable to what would be required for publicly held, for-profit corporations.
Do you favor Cobb EMC, with Power 4 Georgians, building the coal-fired Plant Washington? I believe further study is required and all initiatives of that nature should be on hold until after the election of all the directors for the Cobb EMC board and after a forensic audit. Moreover, while bituminous coal reserves have been said to last for 200 years, I am not convinced the technology for "clean coal" is there yet to abate its carbon footprint. I am open to considering acquiring all new sources of energy after a cost/benefit analysis that includes maintaining the integrity of Cobb EMC's finances and long-term growth, weighing environmental concerns and engaging Cobb EMC's management, employees and customers in an open dialogue being very sensitive and respectful to their input at all times.
Are you seeking the endorsement of any of the reform groups? Why or why not? Yes, as a reform candidate, I seek not only the endorsement of all the reform groups, as I oppose the current board of directors, but also the management, employees and all members of Cobb EMC.
One of those groups, the Cobb EMC Owner's Association, hopes that candidates who go through its vetting process but are not endorsed will support the one candidate it endorses in each area. If CEOA does not endorse you, would you drop out and support their endorsee? Why or why not? There are too many variables to make a final decision at this time. From my understanding, their final criteria for the vetting process has not been established and any candidate that gets through the vetting process might be nullified by them or even the Cobb EMC elections board per its by-laws. Moreover, I believe a run-off might be required if no candidate gets a majority of the vote for their area. I am a reform candidate and want to see a reform candidate get elected. However, it is premature to state how I can be effective to that end without knowing how the campaign will play out.
Family: Wife, Ann; two grown children, Justin and Jenna
Occupation: Management and project consulting; rescue of troubled projects and company turnarounds
Education: bachelor's, mechanical engineering, Florida Atlantic University; master's, technology and science policy, Georgia Institute of Technology; Executive MBA, Kennesaw State University; registered professional engineer; certified project manager (PMI)
Other Community Activities: vice president, board of directors, Georgia Music Industry Association; vice chairman, Atlanta Section of American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME); vice chairman, National Energy & Economics Committee, ASME (2005-2006); Business / Managerial Coach to KSU Executive MBA program
If elected, what is your main objective as a director?To restore the public's trust in Cobb EMC, and ensure that future operations and decisions are in the best interests of the membership
Do you know anything about running an electric utility? Yes, much of my career has been as a consultant to the utility and energy industry. I have working experience of traditional power plants (fossil and nuclear), alternative energy (biomass power plants); alternative fuels development and demand side energy conservation programs. I lived and worked for two years to improve the operations and efficiency of a major utility in the Caribbean, and have successfully directed over $2 billion in energy programs. I have experience in utility operations, engineering, marketing, and executive management. Most recently, I directed two alternative energy projects in Canada and the northeast U.S.
Do you favor a forensic audit? Why or why not? Yes. Some of the commitments as outlined in the MDJ are very costly and have far-reaching consequences. It is necessary to perform an audit, along with a review of past decisions, to understand the thinking behind those decisions.
Do you support the recently announced transparency initiatives? If not, why? Yes. ... In restoring the trust of the membership, the Board must be more transparent than it has in the past.
Do you favor Cobb EMC, with Power 4 Georgians, building the coal-fired Plant Washington? I have a number of concerns with this project; but must state that I know only what I've read in the MDJ. However, I believe that the EMCs primary duty is to distribute electricity. Cobb EMC has no experience in the ownership or operation of this type of facility. The EMC should purchase power at wholesale from the appropriate generators (those that have experience in this area) and then distribute this power. The Plant Washington project needs to be reviewed from a cost, permitting, performance and operating basis. I also have questions about who is designing and building this plant. I would need to have these questions answered in great detail before I could support this project.
Are you seeking the endorsement of any of the reform groups? Why or why not? I have not yet sought the endorsement of any group. I am waiting to see which other qualified candidates emerge.
One of those groups, the Cobb EMC Owner's Association, hopes that candidates who go through its vetting process but are not endorsed will support the one candidate it endorses in each area. If CEOA does not endorse you, would you drop out and support their endorsee? Why or why not? Yes. I believe that the Cobb EMC board should have turnover - it is always good to get fresh ideas. Therefore, if I am not endorsed, I will assume the CEOA's vetting process is valid and support their candidate.
William C. Sharp, Jr.
Family: Wife Charlotte; three grown children
Education: bachelor's degree in business administration, Franklin University
If elected, what is your main objective as a director? I declared my candidacy for Cobb EMC board director in 2008 simply to put an end to the corruption that has marred our EMC for many years. My platform all along has included full disclosure of the Cobb EMC financials to the membership, greater transparency of the board's activities including open board meetings and a full forensic audit of Cobb EMC, Cobb Energy, all subsidiaries and business interests. I only intend to serve one term in order to help rebuild Cobb EMC's reputation with its members and ensure that the Cobb EMC board is fulfilling its mission to provide electric services to its members for the lowest possible cost.
Do you know anything about running an electric utility? An electric utility is a business and I have run a business. I see that my position on the board of directors would simply be ensuring that the executive management is running the business according to best business practices while providing electric services to its members for the lowest possible cost.
Do you favor a forensic audit? Why or why not? Yes. A forensic audit is the most thorough accounting of the business history. I believe that with all of the controversy surrounding the Cobb EMC finances, the members will never be satisfied until a full independent accounting is completed to reconcile the company's activities over the last several years. With that information in hand, the EMC can move forward with its mission to provide electric services to its members for the lowest possible cost.
Do you support the recently announced transparency initiatives? If not, why? Yes. I believe that in the last few weeks the board's movement toward a more transparent organization is a step in the right direction. I have been campaigning on this transparency issue for the last three years. It is a shame that the current board has spent the last four years and millions of dollars in legal fees fighting transparency.
Do you favor Cobb EMC, with Power 4 Georgians, building the coal-fired Plant Washington? I really do not have enough information about this project to know if this project would be good or bad for the members of Cobb EMC. I would like to see an independent cost benefit-analysis conducted before I take a position for or against this project. I am for projects that help Cobb EMC fulfill its mission to provide electric services to its members for the lowest possible cost. I would also like to see more information about who might be personally benefiting from this business arrangement.
Are you seeking the endorsement of any of the reform groups? Why or why not? I am seeking the endorsement of any reform group who supports my platform and who wants to put the interests of the members first and foremost.
One of those groups, the Cobb EMC Owner's Association, hopes that candidates who go through its vetting process but are not endorsed will support the one candidate it endorses in each area. If CEOA does not endorse you, would you drop out and support their endorsee? Why or why not? If CEOA does not endorse me, and the CEOA endorsee has similar goals to mine, I will support the endorsed candidate. Generally speaking I want to see reforms at Cobb EMC. I believe that diluting the vote would reduce the chance that a reform candidate would be elected and thus increase the potential for the incumbent's re-election.
Lance C. Lichtenwalter
Family: Wife, Diane; 3 Children, 4 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild
Education: bachelor's in business administration, University of Florida, 1967; master's in business administration, Augusta State College (now university), 1992
Other Community Activities: Woodworkers Guild of Georgia, Georgia Master Gardner, American Association of Individual Investors
If elected, what is your main objective as a director?To insure complete transparency within the Board, improve the morale of Cobb EMC employees, and to always conduct the affairs of the office mindful that we serve the owners of the organization.
Do you know anything about running an electric utility? The short answer is no, but the board is not charged with the responsibility of "running" Cobb EMC. The board's responsibility is to provide leadership for the organization, hire the CEO, and provide strategy assistance for long range planning. An important additional component is to provide the community, which we serve, with evidence that the Board and the Company are doing their job effectively and with the highest integrity.
Do you favor a forensic audit? Why or why not? I have read the auditors report from the most recent audit and note that the auditors found no substantial defects. (Except the inadequacy of internal controls.) However, I believe that a forensic audit would be appropriate considering the long history of the utility operating as a private fiefdom.
Do you support the recently announced transparency initiatives? If not, why? Yes. I believe that the organization knows the error of its past leadership and is trying to rectify the past misdeeds. Only through complete transparency can the organization regain the trust and support of the members.
Do you favor Cobb EMC, with Power 4 Georgians, building the coal-fired Plant Washington? In principal, I do. I have not seen the complete proposal and the assumptions around which the plant has been developed.
Are you seeking the endorsement of any of the reform groups? Why or why not? I will present at the Cobb EMC Owners Association's beauty pageant next week.
If CEOA does not endorse you, would you drop out and support their endorsee? Why or why not? It is my intent to withdraw should the Owners Association not support my candidacy. They have done the heavy lifting in bringing the misfeasance of the incumbent board forward, and as such their request, that non-selected candidates withdraw be honored. However, in District 6 they are making the assumption that the incumbent, Al Fortney will seek re-election. I don't know anything about his plans but I suspect he will take the lucrative pension he voted himself and avoid the humiliation of a certain defeat. Therefore, perhaps the Owners Association might wish to anoint more than one candidate.
AREA 7 (RJ PATEL)
Charles Malcolm Swanson
Family: Wife, Nancy; three children, Chase, Lindsey, Dansby
Occupation: Self-employed, Owner of Sportsprint
Education: Marietta High School; Troy University with degree in mathematics
Other Community Activities: board of directors, The North Georgia State Fair; deacon and a member of board of trustees, First Baptist Church of Marietta; previously a 15-year member of Cobb Parks and Recreation Commission; Active in coaching baseball for the last 30 years at Oregon Park, Adams Park, East Cobb and Marietta High School.
If elected, what is your main objective as a director?To be an advocate for the members. I will work to make sure Cobb EMC is transparent in the work we do, open to the members and accountable for how the assets are handled. With each vote, I will ask myself if it will benefit the co-op, its members, the owners of Cobb EMC.
Do you know anything about running an electric utility? I know that the way our co-op has been run is not the way to run a co-op. The board is charged with setting policies and procedures as well as hiring competent people with integrity to run the business of Cobb EMC. In this respect, I believe they have failed. I understand how to run a business, the integral role of customers and the responsibility that leadership has to the stakeholders.
Do you favor a forensic audit? Yes, but one that is independent of the current board of directors. I fear that the current board's credibility is so much in question that our members would not have the confidence in an audit that the current board would endorse.
Do you support the recently announced transparency initiatives? Absolutely. The members have every right to know about the business in which their co-op is engaged and the responsibility to let their leadership know how they feel about how their co-op is being run.
Do you favor Cobb EMC, with Power 4 Georgians, building the coal-fired Plant Washington? I have a lot of questions about the coal-fired plant. Due to the lack of transparency, we are left in the dark about several things we should know about the plant. Who is going to own the plant and what is the obligation of Cobb EMC? What is the cost of building the plant? Are the possibilities of new regulations going to make the costs skyrocket? Our EMC has never been in the power generation business and is this the direction we want our EMC to go? The answers to these questions are integral to determining whether I favor this proposition or not.
Are you seeking the endorsement of any of the reform groups? I would love to have the endorsement of the Cobb EMC Owners Association. They have taken the lead in the fight for reforms at Cobb EMC and therefore I will endorse whomever Cobb EMC Owners Association endorses. It is important that the values of the association be put in place and I believe I can do that.
Vance N. Booker
Family: Wife Janet, two grown daughters, a son-in-law and a new granddaughter
Occupation: Retired from the energy business
Education: bachelor's and master's degrees, both in business administration, from Georgia State University
Other Community Activities: Member of the Cobb Citizens Oversight Committee; active member, Marietta Kiwanis where I co-led first strategic planning process, as well as chaired the fund-raising-general committee; guest lecturer at KSU in their Leadership program.
If elected, what is your main objective as a director? To restore owner's confidence in Cobb EMC's Board and to ensure the highest quality of customer service at the lowest possible cost.
Do you know anything about running an electric utility? I have over 30 years experience in the electric utility business, with executive experience at Georgia Power, Southern Company, and Mirant Corporation. Executive responsibilities have included customer service (e.g. metro Atlanta call center, customer accounting, billing, customer satisfaction goals, etc.) human resources, power plant construction, environmental, information services and communications. At Mirant, I was responsible for the Compensation Committee of the Board of Directors as well as serving on numerous subsidiary boards in the U.S., Asia and Europe.
Do you favor a forensic audit? Why or why not?Absolutely. It should be done with the new board oversight to ensure the audit is not only objective and fair, but also viewed as such by Cobb EMC owners.
Do you support the recently announced transparency initiatives? If not, why? Yes, Cobb EMC should be held to at least the standards of a publicly traded company. However, I would want to have certainty about the disclosures, the people and the processes involved in putting them together. To put another way, I'd want to verify the internal controls are in place to ensure the information being disclosed is accurate and fairly represents the material disclosed. Transparency, by itself, is not enough.
Do you favor Cobb EMC, with Power 4 Georgians, building the coal-fired Plant Washington? A reliable supply of electricity at the lowest cost should be Cobb EMC's goal. Not having all the information about the project makes me hesitant to say definitively that I oppose the project. I believe directors should attempt to make informed business decisions. That said, from the information that I've seen and from my experience in the industry, I have serious concerns about the project for several reasons and would want to examine the cost/benefit analysis, as well as the plan to mitigate environmental/regulatory risks. The fact that large electric utilities are shying away from coal due to the regulatory/environmental risk makes me even more skeptical. It would be a top priority to resolve this issue quickly to limit unnecessary expenditures.
Are you seeking the endorsement of any of the reform groups? Why or why not? Yes. Since I was only informed about my eligibility to run three weeks ago, I've had little time to put together any type of campaign strategy. That makes the need for endorsements from these reform groups or from local media extremely important for my candidacy. I don't believe a candidate should be expected to run a political-type campaign to be on the board of directors since directors should be selected based on their individual and complementary skill sets needed to run the company. However, this is a unique situation so it calls for a unique approach.
One of those groups, the Cobb EMC Owner's Association, hopes that candidates who go through its vetting proc-ess but are not endorsed will support the one candidate it endorses in each area. If CEOA does not endorse you, would you drop out and support their endorsee? Why or why not? I hope so. I believe the owner's objective is to have a new board with the necessary skills to run the company and restore people's faith in Cobb EMC. If the vetting process is fair and objective and the best candidate is selected, I will gladly support. I have been given every reason to believe the process will be fair. No one wants to split the vote and help ensure status-quo directors.
Family: Wife Karen; children Clint, Kyle, Anne
Occupation: Management author and business owner (Velociteach)
Education: Undergraduate in business administration from Kennesaw State; Project and Program Management Professional Credentials; Six Sigma Black Belt in Statistics and Quality
Other Community Activities: Kiwanis (Community Service co-chair), Boys and Girls Club Board of Directors, Leadership Cobb Class of 2012.
If elected, what is your main objective as a director?To help bring greater transparency to the process of running Cobb EMC and to restore some of the accountability that should have been there all along. I am not running for financial gain. I will donate all paid compensation I earn from the board in this three-year term to MUST and The Boys and Girls Clubs of Cobb.
Do you know anything about running an electric utility? I know quite a lot about running a business, reading financial statements, marketing, managing projects, measuring performance, and holding management accountable for actions and results. As CEO of one of Cobb's fastest-growing small businesses I know that while there are things that make our electric utility unique, at the core it's a business and adheres to most of the same fundamentals we all do. Where they have gotten into trouble has had very little to do with the fact that they were an electric utility.
Do you favor a forensic audit? Why or why not? Yes. My goals in conducting a forensic audit would be to have a quali-fied team take a thorough look into the deals that have been made in recent years and see if there was adequate evidence of misconduct to pursue the matter legally; however, we have to begin with the end in mind here so this process doesn't run on forever. Cobb EMC has spent over 13 million dollars of our money fighting legal battles in the past four years. My goal will be to root out anything that has not yet come to light, clean it up and get on with running the business for the owners.
Do you support the recently announced transparency initiatives? If not, why? Yes, I am cautiously optimistic about anything that promises more transparency, but I believe we can go further. Announcing the initiatives is a good start, and we'll see how serious everyone is when they are fully implemented. Allowing the member-owners access to more meetings and information is a great place to begin.
Do you favor Cobb EMC, with Power 4 Georgians, building the coal-fired Plant Washington? Only if it proves to be a good deal for the members, but anyone who tries to answer this definatively without all the information may be backtracking very soon. There have been some serious concerns raised about this deal, and it needs to be brought out into the open and evaluated just like any other deal.
Are you seeking the endorsement of any of the reform groups? Why or why not? I am seeking the endorsement of the Cobb EMC Owners Association. They have been the catalyst of change in this process.
If CEOA does not endorse you, would you drop out and support their endorsee? Why or why not? Yes. I believe it is important to endorse a single candidate in each area election and not let the votes get divided, and I hope to be that candidate.
Family: husband, John; children Katherine and Paul
Occupation: Healthcare Industry - auditing and education consulting services
Education: Bachelor's in industrial management, Georgia Institute of Technology
Other Community Activities: Volunteer positions with Girl Scouts of America, Must Ministries, PTSA, and Marietta First United Methodist Church Council
If elected, what is your main objective as a director? I will ensure that Cobb EMC holds its mission and obligations to its members at the forefront of every business decision.
Do you know anything about running an electric utility? Although I do not have direct knowledge of running an electric utility, I have extensive business experience assessing the financial and operational controls and substantiating the accuracy and integrity of financial statements and supporting documentation in a major corporation. I also ensured compliance with state and federal regulations.
Do you favor a forensic audit? Why or why not? I agree with an audit of Cobb EMC and the agreements between other organizations affiliated with Cobb EMC. The financial affairs of Cobb EMC are in need of additional scrutiny to provide Cobb EMC members with a sense of confidence in the accuracy and integrity of the fiscal management of the cooperative.
Do you support the recently announced transparency initiatives? If not, why? Yes, I support the full disclosure of financial information and transparency of operations. I will welcome an ongoing dialogue with all members to discuss con-cerns or other issues.
Do you favor Cobb EMC, with Power4 Georgians, building the coal fired Plant Washington? I am very concerned regarding any decision to proceed with the building of Plant Washington and the impact on the cost on our rates and the environment. Before I am willing to offer support for a decision to proceed with Plant Washington, I would like to be pre-sented with information allowing for a full evaluation of alternatives to ensure that any involvement is in the best interest of Cobb EMC's members.
Are you seeking the endorsement of any of the reform groups? Why or why not? I am not actively pursuing the sup-port of any reform groups. However, I applaud the efforts in educating all of Cobb EMC's members to the improprieties of the current regime. I feel strongly that I will represent the best interest of Cobb EMC's members and would appreciate the support of any group that holds this as their mission.
If CEOA does not endorse you, would you drop out and support their endorsee? Why or why not? I feel that my commitment to ensuring that the Board of Directors fulfills its obligation to the members of Cobb EMC is my driving force in deciding to put forth my candidacy for Area 7's representative. I understand the concern of diluting the voter's impact on replacing the incumbents. Prior to making a decision to withdraw, I would need to have confidence that the candidate that CEOA endorses would better represent the members of Cobb EMC than I feel that I would.
Paul R. Phillips
Family: Wife Debbie; daughters, Samantha and Jamie
Occupation: certified public accountant
Education: bachelor's in business administration, (finance major, equivalent double major in accounting), MACC (masters of accountancy in taxation), all from the University of Georgia, 1978.
Other Community Activities: Worked with the PTA when the girls were young.
If elected, what is your main objective as a director?To hopefully restore the confidence of the members in the Cobb EMC Board. To refocus the board on its prime obligation, which is to represent the members and not management. To find out if anything illegal has actually been going on and correct whatever needs to be corrected based on the findings.
Do you know anything about running an electric utility? I have started to study the operations of the EMC. It will be a learning process for me. Fortunately, the board is not in charge of actually running the utility on a day to day basis. The board's function is to set the overall tone of the business. Hire and support the best people who do know how to run an electric utility. Board members need to know how the business operates and to ask questions of management, challenge their assumptions, listen to input from both management and the rank and file employees and then make an informed deci-sion. The problem is not with the day-to-day operations of the EMC anyway. The employees have done an excellent job of holding things together while the process ran its course in the court system.
Do you favor a forensic audit? Why or why not? I have not made up my mind on this question. I would prefer to have the board do a limited independent review first, I think. I would initially support giving someone authority to do a limited investi-gation in the areas of most concern. Based on the information gathered from this process I would then determine if a full-blown forensic audit would be required. Audits can be very expensive. I am sure the legal fees to date have been very ex-pensive. I would like to make sure that a forensic audit is justified before I spend the members' money. That being said, it may be that something of this nature has already been done, and some questionable issues discovered, then I would sup-port the audit.
Do you support the recently announced transparency initiatives? If not, why? I absolutely support total transparency. I would encourage all of the members to review the recently posted financial statements on the EMC's website.
Do you favor Cobb EMC, with Power 4 Georgians, building the coal-fired Plant Washington? That is a very tough question. It would depend on a number of factors. How far along is the project? I know coal burning is not the cleanest choice but with new technology how does it compare to nuclear? I know we have an abundance of coal in this country and it is a cheaper source of power. I believe that down the road the electrical needs of the area will only increase. What are the options for meeting this demand and what is the cost? I will need a lot more information before I could pass judgment on this question.
Are you seeking the endorsement of any of the reform groups? Why or why not? I am not really seeking any en-dorsements. I am participating in the vetting process of the Cobb EMC Owners Association. I do have some concern, as does the Owners Association, I assume, that because so many candidates are running that you could split the vote and then end up having the incumbent re-elected. I think that would be the wrong result.
If CEOA does not endorse you, would you drop out and support their endorsee? Why or why not?
Let me start off by saying that I would have supported the mail-in ballot so that more members could participate in the proc-ess. I don't want to see any of the current board re-elected and I think the best way to have done that would have been to allow mail-in ballots. The Cobb EMC Owners Association is only one group, an active group, but only one group. At the last election over 3,000 members participated. I have heard that the Association has somewhere in the range of 800 participants. That's about 25 percent of the folks who voted. If after going through the vetting process and seeing, hearing and meeting the other candidates, I feel that I am the best qualified to be elected, I would not drop out and back whoever the Association endorsed. On the other hand, if the individual endorsed by the Association is a qualified candidate who could do as good or better job than myself, then I would strongly consider that option.
Background: I am originally from Long Island, N.Y., and have lived in Cobb County for over three years. I am currently retired after serving over 40 continuous years in the Electric Utility industry and Fire Department. My experience at Freeport, N.Y., began as a firefighter and culminated as Department Chief.
If elected, what is your main objective as a director?To serve the shareholders of the Cobb EMC Utility and help provide safe, reliable service at the most economical cost to the shareholders. I will also provide oversight of matters that are pre-sented to the board as well as transparency of these matters to the shareholders. As part of the board I will provide strong leadership, honesty, and a high level of ethics. Most importantly I will demand staunch oversight of utility expenditures. My extensive background in the electrical utility industry will allow for a seamless transition to the board. The attitude and per-ception of Cobb EMC is a reflection of the attitude and perception of the Board of Directors. If elected, I will pursue a signifi-cant change in the current atmosphere and help return Cobb EMC to a position of high esteem. Furthermore, I support a forensic audit for the purpose of starting from a known quantity and support transparency initiatives.
Charles A. Spann Jr.
Family: Wife, Wanda, 4 children, granddaughter
Occupation: Retired Cobb County Police Officer and current law enforcement officer
Education: Some college
If elected, what is your main objective as a director? To insure transparency occurs and continues. I will also keep the membership informed by making myself available to them mostly through email only because of the number of members. I will meet with them personally when time permits.
Do you know anything about running an electric utility? I have served on several boards and fully understand the process. The board has to first adhere to the laws and rules of the State of Georgia, and almost all boards operate by Robert’s Rule of Order.
Do you favor a forensic audit? Why or why not? I favor a forensic audit now and anytime there is even the hint of mismanagement of funds and financial practices. I am not in favor of forensic audits as a general standard.
Do you support the recently announced transparency initiatives? If not, why? I believe the recently announced initiatives are a good start with the understanding that the membership may see other needs develop as we have open meetings, better communication, and advisory board. I believe the bills should read, EMC” because that is who we are. As for the logo change, lets go back to who we are, COBB EMC.
Are you seeking the endorsement of any of the reform groups? Why or why not? I want the endorsement and vote from all the membership, because that is who I will represent.
One of those groups, the Cobb EMC Owner’s Association, hopes that candidates who go through its vetting process but are not endorsed will support the one candidate it endorses in each area. If CEOA does not endorse you, would you drop out and support their endorsee? Why or why not? First let me say I appreciate all the CEOA has done to make this opportunity more achievable; however, I would not drop out of the race. I believe all of the membership should have the opportunity to determine whether I should represent them on the board, and the only way for that to happen is to remain in the race.
Dr. Larry D. Baker, CSP
Residence: Marietta, 30064
Family: Wife, Sara; three adult children; five grandchildren
Occupation: Professor of Management Strategies, Operations and Performance — Shorter University for last 13 years; owner of an international management consulting firm for the last 31 years; Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), for the last 33 years; Secretary & Treasurer, Continental Beverage Company, wine wholesale company — Marietta
Education: Indiana University School of Business Administration - BSBA, 1968, Highest Distinction, ranked 5th among 783 Business Majors; MBA, 1970; Doctorate in BA, 1972
Other Community Activities: Volunteer consultant for the last 10 years, Cobb Chamber of Commerce, 4 CEO Roundtables comprising more than 60 CEOs; Life-long Chairman, Business — Industry Advisory Council, Lions World Services for the Blind, Little Rock
If elected, what is your main objective as a director? To restore the confidence that Cobb EMC’s owners/cus- tomers, employees, and community have the right to expect, all based on the honesty, openness, and trust needed for Cobb EMC to achieve its strategic, operational, and performance goals.
Do you know anything about running an electric utility? What I know about running Cobb EMC is that it has more Federal and State regulations to which it must adhere than most private businesses. Its owners are its members/customers, as are many of its employees who are also its members/customers. They have the authority to elect their Board of Directors, a greater base of customer and employee ownership power than experienced in most private businesses. Cobb EMC is a not-for-profit organization; its board of directors is responsible for protecting, maintaining, and replacing its assets, plus generating sufficient reserves (what is called profit in private businesses) to expand the financial returns of its owners/customers and take advantage of additional revenue opportunities. Therefore, running Cobb EMC is somewhat different than most of the companies I had to learn about to properly advise them about their strategic futures, image and identity, structure, operations, and culture — yet, there are more similarities than differences.
Do you favor a forensic audit? Why or why not? Yes, the Cobb EMC Board of Directors has an enormous fiduciary responsibility to all of its owners/members. Those who have ultimate responsibility for its operations and are accountable for its success must be above reproach and be prepared for any legitimate audit at any time.
Do you support the recently announced transparency initiatives? If not, why? Yes; all motives and actions of the Board of Directors and other decision makers must stand the challenge of public scrutiny.
Do you favor Cobb EMC, with Power 4 Georgians, building the coal-fired Plant Washington? Currently, I do not know enough about the “pros” and “cons” involved with this project. However, I will make a major time commitment to learning about the project, as well as other matters, before the November election.
Are you seeking the endorsement of any of the reform groups? Why or why not? One of those groups, the Cobb EMC Owner’s Association, hopes that candidates who go through its vetting process but are not endorsed will support the one candidate it endorses in each area. If CEOA does not endorse you, would you drop out and support their endorsee? Why or why not? I would welcome the support of any legitimate reform group that has the best interest of Cobb EMC guiding its programs. Those groups are having the opportunity to learn about me. If I do not measure up to their standards, which will be known before the November election or after the votes are counted. I feel it is important the viability of my candidacy must stand the scrutiny of all Cobb EMC members in Area 7 who vote this November.
AREA 10 (HENRY BALKCOM)
Cheryl Grubbs Meadows
Residence: Cuthbert, south Georgia
Family: Husband, Harold; Parents, James and Lorena Grubbs. James served 30 years on the Pataula EMC Board and as its secretary for 25 years. He was also a director for Oglethorpe Power for 22 years.
Occupation: I have over 30 years in business and management and began my career employed at Gay Plumbing and Heating Company in Albany, Ga., as a main frame computer operator. Employed at Southwest Georgia Regional Airport for 20 years before retiring as the assistant airport director. While employed at the airport, was a member of the American Association of Airport Executives and the Southeastern Airport Managers Association. After retiring in 1995, I was the Man-ager of Randolph Peanut Company until December 2005. Also was employed with James Grubbs and Sons, Inc. during this time and served as the corporate secretary and treasurer from 2004 until 2008.
Education: Bachelor's degree in business education from Valdosta State University, 1972.
Other Community Activities: Member of the Albany Lions Club for more than 20 years and have served in all offices, including president. Served as District Director of the Georgia Lions Lighthouse Foundation, Inc. for three years; Served as District Governor of 18-C Lions of Georgia for the 1996-97 term. Served on the board for the Dougherty-Lee Chapter of the American Cancer Society. Served on the Advisory Board for the Business Division at Darton College, Albany, Ga. Recently became a member of the Benjamin Hawkins Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution.
If elected, what is your main objective as a director?Like my father, I believe in the Electric Membership Corporation and the good that it does for its customers/owners. The area I wish to represent is in southwest Georgia, consisting of approximately 3,200 customers/owners and who may or may not be knowledgeable of the issues that Cobb EMC has been involved with over the past years. I wish to ensure that the owners in this area receive the best representation possible. I am retired and can dedicate the time necessary to bring good leadership to the cooperative and help move Cobb EMC ahead.
Do you know anything about running an electric utility? No. Having watch my father's dedication over the years, I understand that responsibilities of the board can not be taken lightly. As a member of the board of directors, it will be our responsibility to hire the best qualified individuals to run the corporation and be ready to provide the necessary guidance to make sure that the best interest of the owners is maintained.
Do you favor a forensic audit? Why or why not? Yes. With all the controversy over the past years, it is in the best interest of the owners to resolve these issues, so that the issues can be put behind us and move forward.
Do you support the recently announced transparency initiatives? If not, why? Yes. Transparency is good for business or government. Open board meetings allow the owners their right to attend the meetings, in order that they have first-hand knowledge of what may affect them now and in the future. Quarterly reports will provide the owners with data to accurately follow the income, expenditures, investments, power usage by areas, etc.
Do you favor Cobb EMC, with Power 4 Georgians, building the coal-fired Plant Washington? With the population growth, and more farmers in my area depending on electrical power to produce their crops, every avenue should be looked at to provide the safest, cleanest, most affordable power. After we as a board have had the opportunity to study the cost-benefits analysis, we will be better able to judge the advisability of the huge investment.
Are you seeking the endorsement of any of the reform groups? Why or why not? I am interested in receiving the endorsement of anyone or group that supports my platform.
Family: Son, Blake; daughter Rachel
Occupation: media and corporate public relations consultant. I have represented a wide variety of clients, including BP, Philip Morris, GM, Atlanta Underground, BlueCross BlueShield and the University of Georgia. I’ve represented clients in the fields of healthcare, adult beverage industry, nursing home industry, financial services industry and computer software industry, among others.
Education: Graduate of the University of Alabama and the University of Alabama School of Law.
Other Community Activities: various church leadership positions; active in politics.
If elected, what is your main objective as a director? Every decision that I make as a board member will be based on one question and one question only: Is it best for the members? If it is, we do it. If it isn’t, we don’t. And I will fight to bring the kinds of reform to Cobb EMC that will make us the shining example nationally for openness, honesty and reform. My goals include the following: * Create a nationwide search for the best CEO in the country to lead us. When a CEO fights all change and refuses to divulge his salary, then he is not what we need for the next decade. He took too long to change his mind. * Create a Member Bill of Rights incorporating open meetings, open records, and election reform that can only be changed by a super majority vote of the members, guaranteeing that our reforms withstand any change of board or leadership in the future. * All board and committee meetings open to all members and media. * Webcast meetings live and keep video on website for all members to view at will. * Place company budget and checkbook online like state governments do. * Publish every salary. Members have the right to know what the janitor makes and we have a right to know what the CEO makes. * Fire the lawyers who fought reform. No more million dollar law firms. No more $850 an hour. Do it in-house. * Fire the PR firms. We are wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars on outside public relations firms. Do it in-house. * Work to lower rates. Why are Cobb EMC rates higher than most companies in Georgia? * Appoint outside independent attorney to act as Inspector General and review every current Cobb EMC contract let by the current Board and Dwight Brown. * Indicted officials suspended immediately without compensation....if acquitted, can get back pay. Must pay for own lawyers. * Implement zero based budgeting. This process insures that every item is justified before entering a new budget. * Ban no-bid contracts. (Exceptions for sole source situations.) No more insider deals.
Do you know anything about running an electric utility? The problem we face has nothing to do with running an electric utility. The problem is a management problem, where the leadership acted like Cobb EMC was a personal piggy bank, with directors stuffing their pockets with retirement cash, with directors handing out $60,000 per month consulting fees, and Dwight Brown being paid $10 million. Per my practice, I have experience bringing management reform to my clients’ companies, and I think my platform proves that. I know how to reform management and reform the public perception of Cobb EMC.
Do you favor a forensic audit? Why or why not? Absolutely. And if there is wrongdoing discovered I will lead the way to have those people fired, indicted and convicted. But I do NOT support the forensic audit process beginning under the current CEO and Board. They cannot be trusted and it will undermine the credibility of any report. No forensic audit until a NEW board of directors is elected.
Do you support the recently announced transparency initiatives? If not, why? I do, but not from this CEO and not from this board of directors. They have had years to reform. Instead, they fought reform at every corner. Now, as elections are here, the leadership is scrambling to save itself by professing support for reforms. They simply cannot be trusted. That is why I support a Member Bill of Rights. We will incorporate the best reforms, reforms that can only be changed with super-majority votes of the members, almost guaranteeing their protection forever.
Do you favor Cobb EMC, with Power 4 Georgians, building the coal-fired Plant Washington? My problem is not with the plant. My problem is that the entire process smells to high heaven, filled with insider deals, inexperienced contractors in the field, all seemingly designed to make the Cobb EMC leadership and their friends rich. And guess who gets stuck with the bill: the members. I want everything about that proposal reviewed, from every contract to the names of everyone involved. As I said above, if you can prove that something is best for the membership, I will support it. But not this boondoggle. Not this way. The entire process has been compromised.
Are you seeking the endorsement of any of the reform groups? Why or why not? I want the support of the Owners Association. They began this fight many years ago, they deserve to have their say, and to have their stamp of approval would be an honor.
One of those groups, the Cobb EMC Owner’s Association, hopes that candidates who go through its vetting process but are not endorsed will support the one candidate it endorses in each area. If CEOA does not endorse you, would you drop out and support their endorsee? Why or why not? Yes, I would. This reform movement is bigger than any one person. I want every seat to be won by a reform candidate. Splitting the vote and allowing an incumbent to slip back in would be unforgivable. I would not do that. For example, the incumbent I face, Henry Balkcom III, grabbed retirement benefits in excess of $100,000 as soon as he joined the board of directors. I am calling him out. I want to know if he will waive all rights to any retirement benefits from Cobb EMC as a condition for running on the November ballot. That is the honorable thing to do if he wishes to continue to serve the members.