To the editor:
State Senator Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay) and State Representative Patrick Rose (D-San Marcos) have really been cranking up the volume in their attack on the Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC). At the August PEC board meeting, they denounced the board – one which, for the first time, was elected by PEC owners (that is, its members). During his comments, Fraser threatened to dissolve or “break-up” the co-op. Both state officials “warned” the board against hiring professional representation before the legislature in its up-coming session, claiming “we represent the co-op.”
Well, as one of the 185,000 plus owners of the PEC, I say “thanks, but no thanks” to their help. Who will represent the co-op at the legislature is a matter for PEC owners to address, through their elected board members.
Much of what has appeared in print and in the content of their statements to the board is – generously – inaccurate. Some of the comments are rather mind-boggling. It seems important to clear up at least a few of those misrepresentations:
Who brought about the changes that have occurred since 2007? To hear Fraser and Rose, it was largely a result of their efforts. Hogwash. It was the combined efforts of attentive, hard-working owners, a class action law suit by those owners, and competent media reporting that resulted in Fuelberg’s ouster and establishment of open elections. In 2008, months before any effort by Fraser and Rose, the involved owners, working in conjunction with their elected board members, initiated efforts that resulted in initial reforms in the governance of the co-op, such as open meetings and open records.
PEC owners can fairly ask, “What lit Fraser’s and Rose’s fuse?” According to their various pronouncements, it was termination of Juan Garza’s employment contract as PEC general manager. Perhaps, but it is remarkable that none of the threatened legislative actions have a darn thing to do with that termination. Their criticism seems largely focused on the termination process. There has been no explanation as to what it was about that process, in particular, that was objectionable.
The term “transparency” has been tossed about but, on examination, that makes no sense. Garza’s termination was, obviously, a personnel matter. Under the PEC Open Meeting by-law, the state Open Meeting law and PEC-related legislation filed by Fraser and Rose in 2009, personnel matters are, properly and specifically, exempt from open meetings. So, where was this lack of transparency?
The legislators have also suggested that the board had no basis for Garza’s termination. How they would know? In none of the board meetings and committee meetings I have attended in the past three years was either man present. If they had attended those sessions, they would have seen evidence of a CEO who, at every turn, sought to block the board’s efforts to establish sound, accepted business practices at the co-op – practices absent as a result of Bennie Fuelberg’s mismanagement of PEC. Those are the same changes and improvements that Garza spent more than $2 million owner dollars to learn about from consultants.
Had the two busy legislators bothered to talk with some of the involved owners or board members, they would have seen Garza was wasting vast sums of owner money and resisting adoption of standard business practices (like a budget for operating expenses or consolidating purchasing to take advantage of PEC’s buying power – two of the sound, money saving recommendations of the consultant from two years ago).
The most recent misrepresentation Fraser and Rose have begun to chant is the “million dollar bungle” in relation to the buy-out of Garza’s contract. If either man had checked the facts, they would have learned that this was the blunder of the old guard board and Bennie Fuelberg when Garza’s employment contract was drawn. Unless and until Fraser and/or Rose examine carefully how Garza’s spending habits and resistance to adoption of proper management processes was costing owners far more the $1 million dollars, I suggest they back off that shrill claim.
In fact, gentlemen, how about backing off entirely and attending to the matters you were elected to attend to – such as figuring out what to do about the state’s $18 billion dollar budget problem? Let those elected by PEC owners to run the co-op do their job.