GUEST COMMENTARY by PATRICK COX
Members of the Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC) have a unique opportunity to protect some of the hard won improvements that the board of directors approved this year. The Member Bill of Rights will provide long-term protection for open meetings, open records and fair elections at the PEC. Members will be asked to approve these changes to become part of the PEC Articles of Incorporation. Members began receiving their ballots for the 2010 election on May 5. The ballots will include a referendum on this important and much needed change to the Articles of Incorporation.
The PEC Articles of Incorporation are a legal document filed with the state laying out the purpose, structure and fundamental rules for a corporation. In the hierarchy of governing documents, the articles are at the highest level, just below state and federal law, and are the most powerful and binding documents that a corporation can self-design. The cooperative may take no action and pass no bylaw, policy or rule that violates its articles. The Articles of Incorporation also carry a significance beyond their black-and-white legal wording: they mirror and define the nature of the cooperative, its administration and management for the present and the future.
At the new PEC, we are taking an open approach to our governance, operations and policies. This open approach includes the proposed revisions to the Articles of Incorporation. The Member Bill of Rights is a first-ever initiative that establishes the importance of the principles of openness in our meetings, records and fair elections, by making them permanent fixtures at the cooperative changeable only with member approval. If approved, the PEC will stand at the forefront among the nation’s coops for openness and accessibility.
We have embarked on this novel approach in order to re-establish trust with our members and to protect the integrity of the PEC. We all know that the PEC suffered for years under a board and management that conducted its affairs in secrecy and often to the detriment of the PEC members. As the reform members of the PEC board, management and employees undertook this arduous process to restore the reputation and integrity of the nation’s largest electric cooperative, we have chosen to follow an open path.
This new approach includes the proposed revisions that provide openness in our communications, meetings, records, as a standard for conducting our business.
In doing so, we are following the most basic of cooperative principles, a democratic organization controlled by members who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions for their co-op.
When I first ran for election to the PEC board in 2008, I promised to work with other reform directors and our dedicated employees on behalf of our members to restore honor and dignity to our co-op leadership. We have worked for the past year in a very open and thorough process to present the Member Bill of Rights for approval. I encourage all PEC members to exercise their rights and vote in the election this year and join with me in approving the Member Bill of Rights as a much-needed addition to the PEC Articles of Incorporation.
PATRICK COX, Ph.D., is a Pedernales Electric Cooperative board member.