Back in April we submitted proposed amendments to Rappahannock Electric Cooperative’s bylaws that would bring some modest reforms to improve democracy and transparency at the co-op. We asked REC to give us the board-approved petition form (described in REC bylaws) that we need to collect signatures to put the amendments up for a membership vote at the co-op’s August 2019 annual meeting. You can see our cover letter and the proposed amendments here.
As our letter noted, REC’s board could implement these reforms itself, and we said we were willing to meet with the board if it wished to discuss this. On May 25, the board finally invited us to meet with them on June 20.
We accepted the invitation to attend the June 20 board meeting to discuss our proposed reforms. A few days before the meeting we provided each board member with a list of five common-sense reforms that the board could implement on its own. Our email said we were providing the five points to the board before the meeting to “help us make the most of the short time we have to talk with each other.”
To our surprise, shortly after the meeting started and as we began to address a question to a board member, we were advised that the board would not engage in “dialogue” with us. We could talk, but we could not ask questions of the board.
That really is quite shocking, and more than somewhat disturbing. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines a “dialogue” as “a conversation between two or more persons,” “an exchange of ideas and opinions,” and “a discussion between representatives of parties to a conflict that is aimed at resolution.” What really is the point of reform-minded co-op members meeting with their co-op’s board if not to engage in a dialogue?
We briefly discussed our five points while the board sat silently. We asked if there were any questions. Again we were met with complete silence. And so the meeting ended. Apart from saying “hellos” at the beginning of the meeting and “goodbyes” at the end, the board members didn’t utter a word. No questions were asked of us and no comments were addressed to us.
This disappointing result sadly reflects the fact that REC’s board doesn’t feel it has to be accountable to the co-op’s members. The co-op does not provide contact information for board members on its website or in its magazine, and its policy of closed board meetings leaves co-op members guessing as to what goes on in board meetings.
The message could not be clearer. For real reform to happen at REC we are going to need to make the co-op more democratic and transparent and elect board members who are willing and able to do that. That’s what Repower REC is committed to doing, never more so than now. We hope to soon have the petition form for REC members to sign to get our proposed bylaw amendments submitted for a membership vote at next year’s annual meeting. Stay tuned for further updates, and please help us gather signatures once we have the petition form.
Repower REC is a grassroots coalition of concerned REC members and friends and is not affiliated with Rappahannock Electric Cooperative. We are pro member, pro co-op, and pro democracy. We invite you to sign up to join our campaign and follow us on Facebook.