By LARRY LANDAKER
Pedernales Electric Cooperative Board of Directors President
(Editor’s note: Larry Landaker, re-elected as president of the Pedernales Electric Cooperative board of directors Monday, addresses continuing criticisms of the board for firing former General Manager Juan Garza earlier this month.)
CEOs are fired in America every day. Most head coaches in America have been fired. City managers are fired. General McChrystal was just fired. Dan Rather got fired, and so did Carly Fiorini. In my career, I have been fired.
Media and others are free to speculate. While most employers are bound by rules of confidentiality that protect the employee, one might generally assume that the person getting fired has failed to live up to expectations for one reason or another. Sometimes people are fired for sound business reasons, sometimes for trivial reasons. Henry Ford fired Lee Iacocca and famously said later, “I just didn’t like him.” Usually the person getting fired is not too pleased about it and will speak publicly that the action was unfair.
The fact is a majority of the Pedernales Electric Cooperative Board of Directors and Mr. Garza were not in harmony or agreement on many aspects about how PEC was being managed and operated. It is that simple. There were a host of very specific factors, which remain confidential and will not be discussed in these columns. None were trivial. It is the right and duty of the board of directors to make tough calls, even when decisions are not popular. Decisions are not subject to polls or media approval. With some this was an unpopular decision. With others, it was quite well received. The board and board president have been subjected to both withering criticism and praise. Public opinion, however, does not change the decision or the rationale for making it.
Some have suggested that this action lacked transparency, that the board met in secret. Secret is not the appropriate word. A better word is confidential. Boards of directors everywhere meet confidentially on personnel matters in closed executive session. Under PEC’s open meeting policy, discussion and voting on personnel matters are reserved for action within the executive session. Our duty to confidentiality applies even with the general manager, even when the public demands details. Under our policy, PEC posts the executive session agenda three days in advance. If any action is taken, we report the outcome in open session. We followed that procedure to the letter.
Some have made this out to be the vengeful act of two departing directors and that we should have waited for the newly elected board members to decide. At what point in the year do we stop taking care of the coop’s business to await the arrival of new board members, some of whom are elected every year? It is the present board that knows Mr. Garza’s performance best. The fact is, the initiative to terminate Mr. Garza was introduced by me, the board president, without consultation with the retiring board members. In the end, the vote included a coalition of the board’s most diverse members.
Whenever there is change at the top of an organization, people have questions. Some of our employees have asked, “What about me? Is my job safe?” The truth is that our employees have little to fear. The board will back our employees’ freedom to express themselves without fear of retaliation. PEC has the most dedicated and valuable employees anywhere. The board’s duty is to insure that PEC will remain financially viable so that these coveted employees have jobs — now and in the future.
We must make certain that our rates remain competitive and fair. The board is committed to maintaining PEC’s hallmark customer care and the delivery of safe, reliable electricity. We want our employees to earn competitive wages with great benefits. We plan to continue supporting the local communities we serve. If we are to sustain all these things, it is up to management and the board to find smarter and better ways of operating.PEC cannot operate in such a way that fealty is given only to the individual at the top. This has been our long history. PEC belongs to the member-owners. At our core, PEC exists for no reason other than to provide electric power to the owners — members — at the lowest price possible consistent with reliable and high quality service.
The board, management and our employees will work together to fulfill that promise.Email | Print