Thursday, May 6, 2010

Attorney: SEC Trustees Can Live By Old Rules

By John Severance

SOCORRO – Passing resolutions and making bylaw changes are one thing.
But implementing them is a totally different animal.
Just ask the Socorro Electric Cooperative Board of Trustees.
“You can vote in all the resolutions you want,” trustee Donald Wolberg said at the regularly scheduled meeting April 28. “But there is always the problem of implementation.”
Attorney Dennis Francish believes the trustees can live by the old rules until their terms run out.
Francish said that since the trustees were elected under an old set of rules, they apply until the end of the term. That means Francish is counseling the trustees to ignore the $10,000 spending limit and go about as business as usual.
Trustees Milton Ulibarri and Leroy Anaya asked what rules they were living by since they had made plans to make trips for cooperative business.
Anaya was traveling to Washington this week for a National Rural Electric Cooperative Association legislative session and Ulibarri was planning a June trip to Ruidoso as a NRECA delegate at the state convention.
Francish told the board that they were “grandfathered” in under the old rules when they were elected.
Trustee Prescilla Mauldin asked “what about the $10,000 limit? Isn’t that the wishes of the members?
Francish used such legal terms as “course of conduct” and "implied consent." He said those legal arguments could exclude the trustees from the new bylaw and that they should be compensated at the same rate as when they started.
Since the board still had a 1967 resolution on the books which allowed trustees to receive insurance benefits, Francish said there was no violation of the trustees exceeding the new limit.
“If you pay more than $10,000, you are not violating anything,” Francish said.
In fact, the attorney went on to say that the members anything,” Francish said.
In fact, the attorney went on to say that the members made a mistake when they voted to change the bylaw regarding trustee spending. He said the money spent is part of doing company business.
“What do you want to do?” Francish asked. “Do you want to stop doing company business? You can’t stop doing business. You will hurt the company.”
The attorney did say, though, if the members insisted on the trustees living by the new rules, it likely would end up in court.
"There's no easy answer and that's where the courts come in and answer the question,” Francish said.
In other business:
• The board passed resolutions and signed all the necessary paperwork that allows the SEC to get a $24 million loan from the USDA Rural Development Association.
• Bustamante said there would be time set aside at the May meeting for members to address the board.
• Francish requested a resolution that was passed by the board that stated the SEC was aware that the attorney also represented another co-op (the Continental Divide). The attorney said if there was ever a conflict of interest, he would recuse himself.
• Co-op general manager Polo Pineda said a number of customers have come into the office and asked if rates are going to come down because of the recent propositions that were passed by the members in April. Pineda said that is quite the contrary and he will be asking for a rate increase in the coming months.
• The board approved a $300 donation to a Belen youth football team.
Tripp To Sponsor Legislation
State Representative Don Tripp announced last week that he will introduce legislation to change the state statute that prevents mail-in ballots for the Electric Co-Ops district meetings.
“The district meetings are where the Co-op trustees are elected and there are many folks, particularly in the outlying districts, that just can’t get to the meetings to vote in person. Now that the membership has voted to amend the co-op by-laws to allow mail-in voting and that the Trustees have accepted the changes it is my job as your State Representative to propose the legislation needed at the state level.”
Tripp went on to say that, “The co-op manager Polo Pineda brought it up to the PRC Commissioner at his last town meeting but there has been nothing proposed at the legislative level, so I will carry it forward. Everyone should have the opportunity to have their voice heard in our elections and particularly in co-op districts one and five that can only be made practical by allowing mail-in voting. We allow it in our governmental elections so it just makes sense to allow it in the co-op elections also.
“I commend the co-op members on their willingness to get involved in the voting process and the Trustees and management of the Co-Op for their cooperation. It is my hope that the necessary legislative changes will take place at the next session, empowering all the members in the management of their co-op.”

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