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Is this how REC conducts its 'democracy'?

November 19, 2012 12:11 am

Last summer Rappahannock Electric Cooperative blocked my proposal for a membership vote to require REC to disclose to all co-op members the total compensation paid to each REC board member. REC later quietly added limited compensation information on its website, but significantly less information than what the blocked ballot proposal would have required.

REC just announced that in September the board made changes severely limiting how co-op members can put measures before the membership for a vote. REC claims these drastic bylaw changes were part of its "normal review process." But in truth the changes are a REC board power grab. They weren't mentioned at the co-op's August annual meeting.

REC members must now submit bylaw proposals six months in advance, must obtain 500 supporting signatures, and--worst of all--must ensure that no more than 63 of those 500 signatures come from any one REC board region. REC has 11 board regions spread over 22 counties. Only a well-financed effort could meet the challenge of getting 63 signatures from each of at least eight REC regions to reach the magic 500 number.

Also, bylaw amendments must now be approved by two-thirds of co-op members voting, rather than a simple majority, as has been the rule for many years.

REC's board has overreacted, ensuring that members will likely never consider, much less implement, a reasonable proposal that simply sought to require REC to tell co-op owners how much it pays each board member.

Last June, REC's magazine said that at annual meetings members "vote on changes to the bylaws that govern the utility they own." This, the magazine gushed, is "an old-fashioned exercise in democracy that's both refreshing and resilient, a living reminder of when citizens would get together to make important decisions about their shared welfare."

How sad that now REC members will likely never get to participate in such an old-fashioned exercise.

Seth Heald


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