Thursday, July 29, 2010

Court Filings Line Up Against Electric Co-op

By John Severance

SOCORRO – The first legal salvo has been fired back at the Socorro Electric Cooperative on July 22.
Member-owner Alvin Hickox of San Antonio filed suit in the County of Valencia Thirteenth Judicial District in Los Lunas in response to the suit filed by the co-op against all members, Charlene West and the Mountain Mail et. al.
The co-op filed suit to test three bylaw amendments passed by members at the April 17 meeting.
In his “prayer for relief,” Hickox asked that the bylaw changes be enacted immediately, the majority of the plaintiff trustees be required to pay all costs and the plaintiff suit takes nothing from any defendant.
In addition, Hickox wants a team of auditor investigators to examine all co-op transactions involving money or goods paid back to January 1987, which is the year Hickox became a co-op member.
He also wants a judgment ordering the co-op to pay the cost of the ordered audit inquiry and the trustees to pay for the defendant cross complainant costs.
Hickox stopped in the Mountain Mail office to play a cell phone message from Francish, The co-op attorney wanted Hickox to call him back and said the co-op would drop its suit if Hickox dropped his counter-claim.
“I’m not dismissing my suit,” he said.
So why did Hickox file suit?
“My answer is my history,” he said. “It is what I do. The gist of the matter is that I am a retired detective from Los Angeles County. My forte was major fraud. And that lawsuit was a fraud. I don’t like what I see.
Hickox also will be asking for all the co-op trustees to resign.
“We need a clean sweep,” he said.
Hickox’s suit was just the first of the filings.
Charlene West said her attorneys Lee Deschamps and Stephen Kortemeier have filed for a change of venue back to Socorro on July 23
“I am just doing what they tell me,” West said. “So far they are not telling me much.
“This is the second time the board has taken me to court. They filed in Los Lunas and my attorneys want to bring it back to Socorro where the first suit was filed. I’m just a peon.”
The co-op and West also are going back to court on Sept. 9. The co-op wants the court to issue a permanent restraining order.
Judge Matt Reynolds heard the original hearings and issued a temporary order, banning West from meetings.
According to the NM Courts website, as of now, there is no judge for the case.
Reynolds, Edmund Kase and Kevin Sweazea have all recused themselves in the past two weeks.
Also filing suit on July 23 were Socorro attorneys Polly Ann Tausch and Thomas G. Fitch, who also want the case to be sent back to Socorro.
In their motion, Fitch and Tausch claim the Valencia County court lacks jurisdiction over the “unnamed member/owners.” They also claim the venue within the County of Valencia is improper, the process and service of process are insufficient and the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
Fitch and Tausch write only a small percentage of co-op members live in Valencia County and no named defendant in the co-op lawsuit is a resident of Valencia County.
When the SEC filed its complaint, its motion wanted to obtain service of process by publication on named member/owners. Fitch and Tausch write that the SEC meant to say “unnamed member/owners) and thereupon obtain an ex-parte order from the court allowing service of process by publication on all named member owners.
Fitch and Tausch said the process was insufficient because it did not comply with Rule 1-00K(2) NMRA which requires that the “names of each of the defendants against whom service by publication is sought” be set forth.
The two Socorro attorneys made two other arguments about service of process and because of that insufficiency of process and service of process, the Valencia court lacks jurisdiction over the “unnamed member-owners.”
A hearing has been scheduled regarding Fitch and Tausch’s motion for 9:30 a.m. Aug. 10 at the Valencia County Courthouse in Los Lunas to discuss Tausch’s and Fitch’s motion in front of judge John W. Pope.

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