EMC members elect 3 new directors; Area 7 goes to runoff
by Kim Isaza
newseditor@mdjonline.com
November 13, 2011 12:50 AM | 5893 views | 51 51 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cobb EMC members listen during a special meeting at Piedmont Church in Marietta on Saturday morning where most of the candidates for four of the 10 seats on the electric cooperative’s board of directors spoke before members voted. <br> Photo by Jon-Michael Sullivan
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MARIETTA — Cobb EMC members threw out one incumbent director of the electric cooperative during elections on Saturday, and added three new people to the board. A fourth race resulted in a runoff on Dec. 3 — though there were calls for a concession.

In area 1, members chose trucking association executive Ed Crowell over barbecue restaurateur Johnny Woodward. Crowell got 1,896 votes (79.76 percent) to Woodward’s 481 votes (20.24 percent).

In area 6, David Tennant got 1,684 votes (72.71 percent) besting two opponents. Stewart Manley earned 496 votes (21.42 percent), and Patrick Longhi got 136 votes (5.87 percent).

In area 10, voters chose Cheryl Meadows over incumbent Henry Balkcom III. Area 10 represents the Pataula district of Cobb EMC, in southwest Georgia. Meadows won 1,988 votes (84.13 percent) to Balkcom’s 375 votes (15.87 percent).

The new directors will be seated at the board’s Nov. 22 meeting.

Directors represent a geographical area, and must live in the area they represent, though all members vote for all 10 seats on the board. A majority — 50 percent plus one vote — is required to win.

The runoff comes in the area 7 race. Charles Malcolm ‘Cooter’ Swanson almost won outright in the seven-person field, earning 1,203 votes, or 49.47 percent.

Incumbent RJ Patel came in a distant second, earning 354 votes, or 14.56 percent.

Next were Karen Thornburgh, with 276 votes (11.35 percent); Paul Phillips, with 212 votes (8.72 percent); Dr. Larry Baker, with 168 votes (6.91 percent); Charles Spann, 144 votes (5.92 percent); and William Cominos, 75 votes (3.08 percent). Cominos did not attend the 10 a.m. meeting to address members.

Swanson, who owns a screen-printing business, needed only about 13 more votes to win outright, and acknowledged he was disappointed.

“I would have liked this to be done and over with. But the EMC’s worth fighting for, so I’m willing to keep on,” he said.

As the results appeared on screens inside the sanctuary of Piedmont Church, where the vote was held, Swanson said, “I was sitting there thinking that I’m humbled this many people thought I deserve the chance to do the job. And then the responsibility of that: Doing what I said I was going to try to do. That’s what I’ve got to do, but I’m not there yet.”

Patel has aimed to distance himself from the rest of the EMC board, and he highlighted the fact that he was appointed in May 2010.

But Phillips, another of the area 7 candidates, took shots at Patel during the 10 a.m. meeting of members, criticizing Patel for his votes to seek to rehire embattled and indicted chief executive Dwight Brown, and to pay Brown a hefty consulting fee of $59,000 a month.

“The incumbent had the opportunity to stand up for the employees and the members of Cobb EMC and did not exercise that right,” Phillips said, to some applause. “Somebody who has had the opportunity to do the right thing and did not — I don’t think you can put any faith in what he’s saying here today.”

After the results, several of the plaintiffs who brought suit against the cooperative in 2007, suggested Patel should concede the race to Swanson, rather than continue with a runoff.

“It’s not like they were even close,” Tripper Sharp said. “Essentially, over 85 percent voted against RJ. I think it would be honorable for him to concede and save the costs of a runoff.”

David Cohen, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, said that just mailing information to all members about a runoff would cost about $75,000.

“If the tables were turned, I would suggest that Malcolm concede,” Cohen said.

And Patel did not rule out the chance that he might indeed end the race.

“I’m going to look at everything holistically before I made a final decision,” Patel said. “This was quite tough on my family. A lot of people were rude to my family, even today. My wife and daughter and people who believe in me and support me have been ridiculed. I also have two businesses to run. This campaign has been run on my own dime, and it’s financially draining. Time wise, it’s draining.”

A runoff would be the first in memory for most Cobb EMC members, if not the first ever in the cooperative’s history.

New CEO Chip Nelson congratulated the winners after the results were announced about 4 p.m. Saturday.

“We have some good board members coming on board,” he said. “I don’t know them well… but what I know about them is very positive. I think they represent the areas, and the members, very well.”

Both Crowell, the area 1 winner, and Tennant, who prevailed in area 6, said their endorsement by the plaintiffs’ reform group, the Cobb EMC Owners’ Association, played a key role in their wins. In fact, all four of the candidates endorsed by the reform group took the lion’s share of the vote.

“Among other things, it gave a stamp of approval that a lot of people were looking for,” said Crowell, the CEO of the Georgia Motor Trucking Association. “They provided a lot of groundwork, too.”

Tennant, who has 25 years of experience in the energy industry, said he was “pleasantly surprised” to win outright.

“I was thinking there might be a runoff because there were three good candidates in area 6,” he said.

Voting opened at 8 a.m., and a meeting where members could hear from the candidates began at 10 a.m. But the meeting only attracted about 150 people, and little of the hostility members vented during the Sept. 17 special meeting.

Overall, there were 2,471 votes cast among the EMC’s 173,000 members, resulting in a 1.4 percent turnout.

Meadows, who won the south Georgia area 10 seat, addressed members at the meeting through a prepared video because she was unable to attend the meeting. Only nine EMC members from the Pataula district cast ballots on Saturday.

Frank Fatone, who heads the New York-based Election Services Corp. that printed and mailed the candidate information and conducted the election, said he was not sure exactly what caused the delay in getting mailers to some members. The packets were sent by first-class mail from New York beginning on Oct. 31.

Pamela Lawrence, an EMC member from northeast Cobb, said she came with an open mind and cast her votes based on the information in the mailer, what she heard from the candidates on Saturday, and her gut feeling.

“I truthfully did not realize the extent of the problems Cobb EMC was having,” she said.
Comments
(51)
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Shania Gans
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February 03, 2012
It's too bad that the election services weren't able to get all of the information distributed on time. That probably played a major role in who won. I feel bad for the candidates who missed out because of that kerfuffle.
Curious One
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November 14, 2011
Why did the "owners association" endorse candidates in elections that did not involve an incumbent ? The often times stated singlular purpose of the association organized and funded by Thompson and Pounds was to "replace all incumbents" therefore if an incumbent did NOT see re-election such as the case in Area 1 and Area 6 then why did the association bother with the phony process and endorse a pre-recruited association only candidate with no incumbent running ? The answer is obvious - control of the EMC Elections and thusly Cobb EMC. Why is the question ?
EMC Member
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November 14, 2011
I would like to thank RJ Patel for putting Cobb EMC Members first tonight and graciously conceding the election to Cooter Swanson. RJ, you are a class act! I wish you all the best in all of your future endeavors. I would also like to congratulate our newest Cobb EMC Board Member Cooter Swanson.
Cobb Taxpayer1
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November 14, 2011
Oh my...what will everyone talk about now? Looks like all you anonymous faceless cowards won! Patel conceded the race so that "the employees could go Christmas shopping on December 3 instead of having to hold another election." I'm sure you all are happy. Just remember, be careful what you ask for, you might just get it.
Cobb Taxpayer
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November 14, 2011
Pretty simple - Butch Thompson and Bo Pounds' money and the Brains of the Sierra Club nailed the election for their preselected candidates - now what ? Zero transparency and zero diclosure !

The made up "owners" association stated publicly at the vetting that THEY could nullify the vote of the attendees and didn't even know if the voters belonged to EMC and further more would not reveil the count of the ballots to the vetted candidates ! This was a shame and with all the money, the MDJ stickers, the robo calls and the signs basically stole the election form the EMC members who were victims of the scam. Now, we have some new board members beholding to another good-ole-boy group that replaced Dwight Brown's good-ole-boy group.
Funny how it works
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November 14, 2011
i noticed the relationship between Bo Pounds and Mr. Swanson at voting polls. Truly - reading the bios - I am suprised that he was the endorsed candidate. I saw how the marketing from that group took over the process.

I will be watching...
Concerned Owner
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November 14, 2011
I also attended every forum that was announced to the public regarding the election. Do not be naive - the "Owners Association" or 1% of the members knew in advance who they were selecting to endorse prior to the "vetting". I can only hope that they don't have their own agenda.

It will not come as a surprise to me who they have already selected in their "vetting" process as their endorsed candidates for the future elections. You only needed to hang around the group to see the "chosen ones". Imagine that!

Let's hope we are not selecting another group with their own interests. Why not stand back this time and let the candidates market their own selves in fair forums like Cobb Watch!
21 year EMC Owner
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November 14, 2011
I find it interesting when people ask how people know how the board voted in the past. Besides the fact that these votes were discussed in open court back in August, anyone who attended the candidate forums knows that both Mr. Balkcom and Mr. Patel admitted to voting with the rest of the board to rehire Dwight Brown after Mr. Brown was indicted for stealing from the company. I find it to be sad that anyone who is supposed to be looking out for my interests thinks that it is in my best interests to hire someone who is indicted for stealing from me. Mr. Balkcom has now been held accountable for his bad choices by losing the vote on Saturday. I think the membership plans to hold RJ accountable for his bad choices by voting against him in the runoff. Hopefully a runoff will not be needed and RJ will do the honorable thing and concede.
Greg012
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November 14, 2011
I'll vote in the runoff against any incumbent on the EMC board! Clean out the corruption!!!!
Revolt We Much!
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November 14, 2011
One has to wonder where the animosity comes from that is aimed at the Owners Association. If anyone thinks that the Owners Association has any interests beyond returning the control of the EMC back to its members/Owners then they haven't attended a meeting or gone to the website and joined or read anything beyond what is in the papers. There can't be anything more transparent than the Owners Association has been. If the EMC had been this transparent we wouldn't be in this mess. The meetings are open, the membership is open to anyone and their commitments are there for everyone to read and understand. I was at each meeting and I can say with certainty that Ed Crowell, David Tennant, Malcolm Swanson and Cheryl Meadows came out of nowhere and went though the same vetting to win the members votes. Their answers to the vetting questions and their efforts to meet with the members at various Meet and Greets throughout the county were rewarded with the votes of all the members that came out to vote in the election. It is easy to sit on the sidelines and whine about what the others are doing but you shouldn't complain if you aren't willing to get off the couch, pick up a pitchfork and confront the monster. The whiners always complain about the doers.
D. Williams
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November 14, 2011
I did attend the meetings, read the website, and even watched what was going on as well as listened to what is being said. Those selected to be 'backed' by the CEOA was known earlier that morning throughout the Cobb EMC before the vetting ever happened. As far as transparency - you are quite naive if you believe the CEOA is transparent. Any special interest group has a hidden agenda, always has, always will - Washington is a good example to look at. I watched closely the evening of the vetting and knew immediately who were the 'golden boys' of the CEOA. As far as what is said in public and printed on the internet - anyone can tell you one thing and be doing another, I learned that at an early age. Do not be so gullible to believe what you are being told. Do more research than listening to their 'talk' and reading their propaganda.
Reform1240
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November 14, 2011
I do not have any illusions that Mr. Patel is an Evil man. He seems humbled by this experience and my thoughts go out to he and his family for the strength they have shown during this process. He seems honest enough, and in my brief encounters with him has been pleasant and eager to meet tmy needs as a member.

With that said, Mr. Patel has not acted in the best interest of the Membership of Cobb EMC.

Mr. Patel has, on several occasions at open public forums, admitted to voting for the attempted re-hiring and subsequent retention of Dwight Brown as a consultant to Cobb EMC.



He even admitted that at the time of his votes, that the board was unaware as to how large the compensation package for Mr. Brown would be. He stated clearly, "we voted on whatever package would 'make him whole'."

Mr. Patel was willing to give away the farm.

Ask him yourself; He is, at least, Honest about what he has done.

Mr. Patel, please concede.
D. Williams
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November 14, 2011
To use the word EVIL tells me you do not know RJ Patel at all. Your little impromptu encounters does not represent who he is as a person, It only proves you have a limited knowledge of which you speak. Mr. Patel serves the public continuously in his business as well as voluntarily, and this experience has only proved he believe and trusted those he was serving on the board with to do the right thing. You are choosing to not mention that he first refused for some time to sign the agreement and it wasn't until he had all his questions answered and was assured the compensation was not outrageous, did he sign his name. You go on to state that he is honest. How can a man be honest and evil at the same time? Proving again - you know little of the man you speak of. If you know him so well, why hide behind an alias, sign your name sir/madam, I did.
No illusions
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November 14, 2011
Anyone need a refresher course on reading. D. Williams?
Reform1240
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November 14, 2011
Let me say it more clearly. I do NOT think he is an evil man.

He is honest.

He has been very open and forthcoming about the votes he has made to retain the criminally indicted D. Brown at the $59k a month, in order to "make him whole".

Honesty is wonderful in leadership, ability to adequately represent the best of your constituency is also a necessity. RJ has not demonstrated that quality.
D. Williams
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November 14, 2011
No refresher course needed - clearer writing does.
Canton, GA
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November 14, 2011
D. Williams_ why are you on the defensive? He didnt call RJ evil, he actually commented positively on RJ and his character. You type alot of hate speach on this forum and should really sit back and take a self examination before slinging the verbal abuse. shame.....

I do know RJ Patel personally and he is a great family man who deeply cares about his community. I have had both personal and business dealings with Mr. Patel and would offer nothing but praise on him or his family.
D. Williams
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November 14, 2011
@ Canton. You seem to believe my questioning is hate speech. We've encountered each other before and you really need to re-read your post if you want to read hate speech. To consider someone who disagrees with you a hate speech writer is small-minded at best.

Backhanded compliments are not compliments at all Canton.
D. Williams
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November 14, 2011
@ Canton. RJ is a personal friend as well you don't have to explain him to me.
anonymous
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November 13, 2011
Hang in there RJ you are a GREAT and HONEST MAN. I wish you all the best.
Long Time Member
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November 13, 2011
Leave the man alone, for goodness sake. You all sound like clones. I am becoming a little concerned about this CEOA association. Sounds like it is a cult, and if you don't belong you don't count. I have news for you CEOA, I can think for myself and I am not drinking your Kool-Aid. If you other members want to blindly follow like sheep, to each his own.

By the way, how does anybody know how Mr. Patel voted in reference to Dwight Brown or anything else for that matter? He could have voted against, and out numbered.
Pat H
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November 14, 2011
You can be a part of the CEOA - just sign up on the website and go to the next meeting. They have been there all along.

Your lack of knowledge about the organization and the plaintiffs in the fight to expose the corruption is evident. The CEOA was formed by Butch Thompson, Bo Pounds and other plaintiffs who had to sue the Board and Dwight Brown to secure transparency. In the process, Brown, the Board of Thieves and a bevy of overpaid lawyers sued the plaintiffs to intimidate them into dropping the suit. This is an illegal act and the judge admonished them before they dropped the suit.

The vote to hire Brown as a consultant at $60 grand PER MONTH was 10-0. Patel admitted at a forum at the Mountain View Community Center that he voted to re-hire Brown.

You need to get involved and educated before you criticize those who have worked hard for the last several years to stop this corruption. Mr. Patel deserves all the flack thrown at him and more. He was Mark Matthews campaign manager - enough said.
Bob Bummer
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November 13, 2011
Will the runoff be open to all members or just the members that voted on November 12?
Reform1240
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November 14, 2011
ALL members!

But no self-respecting (or constituency respecting) candidate would pursue a run-off election with reliable polling showing 85% of the vote against him/her.

To move forward with a run-off vote would be a slap in the face to the membership which has sent an overwhelming message to ALL sitting board members.

Mr. Patel, please concede your race,
MDJ supporter
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November 13, 2011
Many thanks Kim Isaza and the Marietta Daily Journal for the great coverage of the Cobb EMC rip offs. Please keep up your fantastic work. (Ms. Isaza deserves a great raise.)
I like RJ
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November 13, 2011
RJ, I know you are a decent man with a wonderful family. I voted for you yesterday. Sometimes great men need to take their licks and live to fight another day. For the sake of the EMC please concede. The continuation of your campaign will only reopen old wounds and postpone any chance for healing in this community. I know you care about your community. Please do the right thing. I think the entire community will gain a lot of respect for you if you save the EMC members the approx. $100K needed to hold a runoff.
EMC'r
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November 13, 2011
RJ, it is time to gracefully withdraw. The only thing another vote on Dec 3rd will do is cost the co-op/members more money. Had the vote been closer it may be worth hanging on, but 85% indicated they wanted a change. It's time........
Time for aNew
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November 13, 2011
It's time to let the new people in, RJ. Save the community and your family the expense of another election and concede. It's the right thing to do. If 85% of those voting want someone other than you - it's a no brainer on what you should do here.
Not Fair
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November 13, 2011
The AJC is reporting today that "Patel spent between $2,200 and $2,500 on his campaign ". I received a post card from Patel this past week. The postal rate alone was $50,170 (0.29 x 170,000) if he sent the postcard to all members. Are the incumbents using EMC money for their campaign?
D. Williams
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November 14, 2011
No Not Fair, the incumbent did not use EMC money for his campaign. Did you not read carefully that he spent his own. To bad you assume in the dollar amount as well. Your assumptions are how rumors of lies gets started. If you believe in what you type here then at least sign your name and not hide behind an alias.
Not Fair
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November 14, 2011
D. Williams, please share with us how many postcards Patel sent out and who paid for it.
EMC owner
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November 13, 2011
It was a truly fantastic day. Thank you Butch Thompson and Bo Pounds for making this possible.
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