That’s not just the usual dodge, but the official word.
And it’s a day many thought would never come — probably no one more so than Butch Thompson and the late Bo Pounds, the lead plaintiffs in the class-action suit against local utility giant Cobb EMC.
Their 2007 suit claimed then-President and CEO Dwight Brown and other insiders were using the Marietta-based electric power co-op as a private piggybank. Brown later was indicted on 31 counts of criminal wrongdoing, including theft, racketeering, making false statements and conspiracy to defraud government entities. He has been out of jail on bond since July 2011, although no trial date has yet been set before Cobb Superior Court Judge Robert Flournoy.
The EMC board then in place fought the lawsuit tooth and nail and used delay and subterfuge to try to retain Brown but ultimately succumbed to pressure from the courts and members, who voted the old board members out and replaced them with a board that has made transparency a priority.
The court also ordered the EMC to divest corporate spinoff Cobb Energy and a number of other money-losing ventures Brown had set up with the acquiescence of his board.
The plaintiffs’ suit contended $286 million in revenues to the EMC through the years should have been returned to the members rather than diverted into the other ventures. The last time prior to the suit Cobb EMC had refunded those “capital credits” was back in 1976, when they totaled $550,000.
A $98 million settlement of the suit was announced Feb. 25, including a refund to the members.
A so-called “first wave” of distributions totaling $24.6 million is going out this week. Recipients stand to get anywhere from less than $100 to up to several million dollars, depending on how long they have been a customer and how much power they have paid for.
“I am very pleased. This was something that should have been done years ago,” Thompson said. “It was worth it to correct a wrong, and as a result of it, the customers now will get back some compensation for the years that they should have.”
It’s been said before but bears saying again: the community — and not just EMC customers, but all local residents — owe Pound and Thompson a debt of thanks for their dogged pursuit of justice and insistence that the utility be operated on an honest and transparent basis.