Members of the electric cooperative have until 6 p.m. Wednesday to petition to run for seats on the 10-member board representing Areas 1, 6, 7 and 10. Although directors must live in the area they represent, all members may vote in all 10 director elections.
More than 50 people turned out Tuesday night for a meeting of the Owners Association, held at the offices of Butch Thompson Enterprises in Kennesaw. Thompson is one of the six plaintiffs who brought suit against the electric cooperative and some directors in 2007 accusing them of breach of fiduciary duty, among other things. The plaintiffs formed the Owners Association earlier this year.
Already, there are at least 10 known candidates for the November elections who are seeking the group’s endorsement, plus a few other candidates. Members of the group have two upcoming meetings — Oct. 13 and 18 — where members will ask questions of each candidate, then decide as a group whom to endorse.
The known candidates in Area 1 are Johnny Woodward and Ed Crowell, as well as the incumbent Don Barnett.
In Area 6, known candidates are Bill Sharp, Stewart Manley, Patrick Longhi, and David Tennant, as well as incumbent Al Fortney.
In Area 7, Charles Malcolm Swanson, Vance Booker, Andy Crowe and Bill Cominos are seeking the group’s endorsement. Other candidates for area 7 include Karen Thornburgh, Paul Phillips and current director RJ Patel.
In Area 10, which is the Pataula district in south Georgia, Cheryl Meadows is intending to run against incumbent Henry Balkcom.
The Owners Association wants to avoid having two or more challengers split the “reform” vote and thus giving victory to the incumbent. As such, the group will endorse only one candidate in each area, said David Welden, one of its leaders.
“We’ll give the endorsed candidates extensive support, and we hope that the candidates we don’t endorse will throw their weight behind the one candidate who is endorsed,” he said. “We think the rewards would be greater this way. Of course, the other candidates don’t have to do that, but that’s the spirit we’re hoping for.”
That could also help avoid the need for any runoffs. The bylaws require directors to be elected by a majority of the votes, which means that to win, a candidate must get 50 percent plus one vote. There are no provisions in the bylaws for how a runoff vote would be done, so members could potentially be called back for another vote on another day, as happens in government elections.
Sam Kelly, the EMC’s vice president of public relations, confirmed that directors must be elected by a majority vote.
“Run-off elections would be held at a separate time,” Kelly told the Journal. He did not say who made that decision or why a second round of voting could not simply be held on the original election day.
One thing the Owners Association won’t budge on in endorsing candidates is its demand for an independent forensic audit — ordered after new board members are in place.
“We, as the Cobb EMC Owners Association, will not support or endorse any candidate who opposes a forensic audit,” Welden told those gathered on Tuesday.
The group is already organizing committees to campaign for its slate ahead of the Nov. 12 elections, with various people focusing on writing and polishing candidate profiles, and others taking candidate photos, as well as technical and production teams to get out the yard signs — and the members to vote. The efforts will be repeated twice next year, ahead of the Feb. 18 and May 12 elections. Another reform group, Take Back Cobb EMC, is working with CEOA on the effort.
The utility itself also has a credentials and elections committee, whose members are appointed by the board of directors, to interview and qualify candidates seeking election to the board.
Two current directors of Cobb EMC, Don Barnett and RJ Patel — both of whom are up for reelection on Nov. 12 — attended Tuesday’s meeting and were met with polite, if unenthusiastic, applause when introduced. That’s not terribly surprising. After all, part of the Owners Association’s stated mission is to replace the entire board.
In opening the meeting, Butch Thompson offered some words of reconciliation to his fellow EMC members.
“All indications are that we’re ready to move forward and go with openness. Going forward, I want to emphasize this: What’s happened in the last four years is public knowledge, it’s already passed, and it’s time for healing and to go forward,” he said. “We need to realize we’ve come this far, we’ve been successful, now let’s finish it up on a good note.”