Membership participation strikes down resolution to make voter records public

A concerned membership outcry at PEC was the catalyst for the rescission of a resolution that would have opened member voting records to candidates. The argument for the release of the records was that it would allow candidates to better target known voters during a campaign. Director Scanlon introduced  RES-2014-79, quoting that she had reconsidered her previous vote. The rescission  passed on a 5-0-2 vote with member voting records remaining private.

When members learned of the passage of the first resolution, growing concerns regarding privacy were immediately voiced to some PEC Directors.  In the initial discussion, PEC’s General Counsel had also raised some cursory issues, including that of member privacy. While the idea may have had good intent, the unintended consequence and overall impact on PEC elections was considered too great.

Cooperative elections are not like governmental elections, where voter records are considered public. PEC elections are reserved for coop members only. PEC has very specific election procedures in place.  Member records are subject to Privacy Act protection and therefore should not be made public without member consent.

I am sharing this recent event to demonstrate how critical member involvement is.  PEC operates under a philosophy of openness and transparency to the maximum extent practicable. Executive Sessions are only used for sensitive matters that would be harmful to PEC if made public.

Developing and adopting policy seems like a simple and fairly mundane sort of task for boards for all sorts.  When the reforms at PEC began in 2008, incoming directors discovered out-of-date policies and other policies not compliant with standard business models.  The first few years of transformation have been spent on establishing better governance, instilling structure and discipline. It was critical to establish proper delegation of authority to executive management and staff. Most of all, it was essential to implement a fair and open election process that engages members.

The Board spent considerable time re-writing by-laws and also developing new election policies.  It was a high priority because the member lawsuit had just prevailed. It was time to retire the unfair and undemocratic election process that was in place.  At that time, a proxy voting methodology embraced the idea that members could vote as many times as they had meters.  The election system was board-controlled and members were blocked out.  That system had to be abandoned.

The new system is based on a “One man-one vote” concept and director nomination is by petition only. The election process is delegated to an independent third-party provider. In doing so, the election process is also protected from board and management intervention. The Board deemed it critical to regain member trust through a totally revised and transparent election process.

Your involvement in the life of PEC is critical. It is also critical to continue with our current philosophy and business model. We are now feeling the direct benefits of years of reforms and sound management. For the first time, PEC members will see a significant reduction in residential rates starting in Dec 2014. Click here to see my blog entry about the rate reduction.

On June 20, 2015, three director district positions — Districts 1, 6 and 7, will be put up to an at-large vote. Stay involved. Together, let’s keep up the good work.