The court ruled 6-1 - coming down with no heartburn, in other words - against Brown and his 10-person rubber-stamp board, saying they had violated an earlier settlement agreement when they amended the utility's bylaws to allow proxy voting. That December 2009 agreement in the 2007 suit brought against the board by plaintiffs Bo Pounds and Butch Thompson had specified that the two sides would jointly determine procedures for electing future board members. Instead, Brown's board unilaterally decided to go behind the plaintiffs' backs and allow proxy voting - a procedure that typically allows management to remain entrenched. Board elections have been postponed for three years as a result.
"We had an agreement and before the ink dried, they were changing the rules," complained Pounds in the wake of Monday's ruling.
But on two other points the utility board appeared not to have acted in good faith when it entered the settlement. The first was in regards to the elections, as mentioned above. The other was the board's obvious reluctance to part ways with Brown. The settlement had specified that Brown would retire by the end of February and not seek further employment with the EMC. The EMC then kept the public in the dark about Brown's plans until the very last minute, cynically waiting until the early evening of the last day in February to put out a news release laying out their plans to rehire Brown.
The EMC is awaiting a ruling from Cobb Superior Court Judge Stephen Schuster on whether it can rehire Brown, arguing that he had not sought further employment there, but rather that they were seeking to continue his employment. Or in other words, he had not applied for the job, but they were going to hire him anyway, if the court approved.
Schuster had been expected to rule this week, but did not - and many court observers wonder why, considering how clear-cut the evidence was of the board's bad faith, he didn't rule from the bench in favor of the plaintiffs at the hearing's conclusion rather than letting the matter drag out even further and letting legal bills continue to mount. It was abundantly obvious to the Supreme Court that the utility was not acting in good faith; so why was it not also obvious to Schuster?
EMC lawyers offered the court the bizarre argument that it had conducted a national search for a successor, but had been unable to find a candidate as good as Brown. Really? As good as him at what? Running the EMC to the brink of bankruptcy and ruining the reputation of a utility that had been viewed for decades as a community treasure?
Indeed, Pounds and Thompson have said that a big reason they agreed to settle their suit when they did was because the EMC was in dire financial straights, and that they had no desire to hurt it, just to end its mismanagement and Brown's alleged siphoning of funds.
Brown was indicted back in January by a Cobb grand jury on multiple counts of theft, racketeering and making false statements in connection with the alleged scheme to use the EMC as a piggybank. Brown's indictment was later tossed by Judge Robert Flournoy on the grounds that it was not delivered in open court, in violation of Brown's constitutional rights. Cobb District Attorney Pat Head is now trying to have an appeal heard in the case.
But it's no secret that the money-is-no-object EMC board has squandered millions of ratepayer dollars on legal fees and spin doctors trying to fend off the plaintiffs, who just want to make the EMC more accountable to its 190,000 ratepayers.
If Cobb EMC were a publicly traded firm, its investors would have pulled the plug on it long ago and its stock would be selling for pennies on the dollar. Few corporate boards would have put up with Brown's years-long shenanigans, or have been so eager to pay the sky-high bills for his legal team and spin doctors.
BALLOTING for the Cobb Commission chairmanship is still a year away, but you wouldn't know it from this week's dueling press releases.
Former Chairman Bill Byrne, who hopes to unseat incumbent Tim Lee in next summer's Republican Primary after a decade on the political sidelines, fired off the following: "In Cobb County, we must all work to: replace UNCERTAINTY with CONFIDENCE replace DISAPPOINTMENT with HOPE and replace DIVISIVENESS with LEADERSHIP."
He also attacked the coming T-SPLOST referendum planned next summer: "Raising taxes on Cobb's residents, FOR 10 YEARS, in the middle of a serious recession, is totally unacceptable.
"Cobb's voters can endorse a Commission Chairman that supports this tax increase proposal or a Commission Chairman candidate that opposes this proposal. My campaign for Commission Chairman will work hard to defeat this T-SPLOST proposal and focus on reducing spending to balance the budget."
Lee fired back on Friday with a strong salvo of his own, accusing the former chair of being a demagogue.
"As we meet the challenges of today and focus on tomorrow, we cannot pretend we're living in the past. The same old politicians, the same old political ego games, and the same old angry rants won't solve these problems. We can not allow Demagoguery to become a substitute for real leadership in these critical times. This election is a clear choice between a results based vision for our future and the tired politics of the past."
As you can see, neither man is mentioning the other by name. But it's a good bet that will change long before next summer.
Lee's campaign kickoff will be June 27 at the Marietta home of Dan and Mary Lou Stephens. Lee's incumbency gives him a decided advantage when it comes to fundraising. The invite list for his kickoff lists 74 names on the host committee, each of whom is expected to give or raise $1,000. The names include former U.S. Rep. Buddy and Lilian Darden (D-Marietta), Cobb EMC's Sam Kelly, Atlanta Regional Commission head Tad Leithead, zoning attorneys John Moore and Garvis Sams, former Commission Chairman Earl Smith, and former state DOT board member Johnny Gresham.
A MEMORIAL SERVICE for Bishop/Confederate Gen. Leonidas Polk will be held at 10 this morning off Beaumont Drive atop Pine Mountain in west Cobb, where he was killed by a Union artillery shell in June 1864. Period dress is encouraged. The event is being sponsored the Leonidas Polk Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, according to member Martin O'Toole. ... Faith and Freedom Coalition Chairman Ralph Reed will be guest speaker at today's Madison Forum 8:30 a.m. breakfast at the Rib Ranch on Canton Road in east Cobb.
WHILE WAITING for Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney to arrive at Kenny's Great Pies in Smyrna on Thursday, MDJ reporter Jon Gillooly cornered Mayor Max Bacon, asking if he intended to endorse Romney for president. After thinking about it for a moment, Bacon revealed that he would indeed endorse Romney. Romney then arrived and toured the pie factory with Bacon, Attorney General Sam Olens, Smyrna Mayor Pro Tem Wade Lnenicka, Chamber CEO David Connell and others, before appearing before a press gaggle.
Pointing across the room to the press gaggle, Bacon said to Romney: "That's Jon Gillooly. He's the one that got me to endorse you."
In response, Romney asked Gillooly: "Can you get a contribution out of him as well?" to general laughter from all.