The Board of Directors of the Pedernales Electric Cooperative on Tuesday announced long-awaited plans to initiate a number of changes in its governance and business practices.
The changes approved by the PEC Board and detailed in a letter sent to the cooperative’s members, include changes to the election process, management, and business practices to be implemented over the next several months.
Management changes include plans for Board President Bud Burnett to retire from his position as president and director no later than June 2008, and for Bennie Fuelberg to retire as general manager upon qualification of his successor. A search firm will be engaged to begin identifying candidates for the general manager position.
The board revised the by-laws to provide for eliminating the coordinator position which Burnett held and was paid for, holding some meetings in the service area other than Johnson City, and posting the board meeting notice and agenda on PEC’s website at least two business days before each regular meeting.
Election process changes include plans to publicize Nominating Committee meetings on the PEC website and by other means, to specify qualifications for directors to be appointed or elected to the board, to allow nominations by petition of 25 or more member signatures, to post the petition form and qualification requirements on the PEC website, mail candidates’ qualifications and biographical information to members, and revise the proxy form to permit members to indicate candidates for whom they want to vote. Members will be allowed to designate either an individual or the PEC directors not standing for election as their proxy representative to vote for the candidates they indicate and to vote on other business, and will have the option to submit proxies electronically.
The PEC will use an independent service to receive and count all proxies, cease offering prizes to members who send in proxies, and limit board officers to two consecutive one-year terms for the same office.
Senator Troy Fraser said he is not fully satisfied with the announced reforms. Fraser said the PEC’s plan to designate a “board slate” of candidates on the ballots mailed to members is “totally unacceptable” because it would make it more difficult for challengers to get the attention of the voters. Fraser suggested that the PEC run their election like any other election, saying that no candidates should receive “special treatment” on the ballot, and the proxy system should not be continued. “Let’s have a PEC election like all other elections. Voters mark their ballot for a specific candidate and return it to be counted.”
The PEC says it will begin the systematic distribution to members of capital credits, funds that accumulate when revenues exceed expenditures. The PEC will begin retiring capital credits on a 30-year rotation, beginning with distribution of the earliest allocated credits. The first group of capital credits, totaling approximately $7 million, will be those allocated through 1976. The PEC says it will continue this annual distribution as long as its financial integrity is not impaired and excessive rate increases are not required.
Fraser has argued for a more comprehensive accounting and distribution of capital credits. “The plan announced by the PEC is a start, but it is only addressing 3% of the $220 million in overcharges since 1976.” Fraser wants the PEC to “address current overcharges” which he estimates will be $20 to $50 million this year. “Under the PEC’s plan, current members would not see a return of this year’s overcharges for 30 years.”
Fraser said he was disappointed that the PEC made its by-law changes “in a vacuum.” He had asked that the board use an independent committee of members to re-work the by-laws, but “the board ignored” his suggestion. “It is time for the PEC board to realize that the cooperative is owned by its members.”