Madison community forum: good attendance, more good questions

Nearly 30 concerned co-op members attended our Repower REC community forum Feb. 2 in Madison.

Nearly 30 concerned co-op members attended our Repower REC community forum Feb. 2 in Madison. Many thanks to Rural Madison for helping to spread the word before the meeting. Among those attending were five members of REC’s board of directors – a sure sign that our push for reforms is being heard.

Repower REC co-founder Seth Heald focused, with aid of a slide presentation, on the serious lack of financial transparency and democracy problems at our electric co-op. Heald explained how REC fails to tell its members key details about the $400 million in capital credits that are retained on the co-op’s books in individual accounts with co-op members’ names on them. It’s our money, but the co-op won’t tell us its policies on when we can expect to get it back. More on this issue and its importance to every REC member is available here. Click here to download the presentation.

Seth Heald talks about Repower REC's campaign.

Another issue that resonated with the audience was our explanation of how REC’s board uses thousands of blank “member-undesignated” proxy forms to control board-election outcomes. Much of this happens in ways that the co-op has not disclosed to its members in the past.

Our push for genuine transparency is shining a much-needed light on this unfair practice. When the board itself controls election outcomes, and well-paid board members stay on for decades if not for life, the voice of cooperative members is not being heard in board elections.  Democracy isn’t working.

REC board chair Christopher Shipe, responding to our presentation, acknowledged that the co-op needs to improve its transparency. He said the co-op this summer will —  for the first time ever — allow board candidates to post a campaign video on REC’s website to help voting co-op members be more informed about their choices. It remains to be seen whether REC will try to control the content of candidates’ messages to keep them from discussing issues facing the co-op, as REC has done in the past with candidates’ written statements.

Shipe also mentioned that the board at some point imposed term limits on itself. Heald pointed out how the board keeps that secret, by not putting the term limits in REC’s publicly disclosed bylaws. Nor do the board’s secret term limits appear to have any teeth, seeing as how last summer REC’s longest-serving board member was re-elected after being on the board for the last 37 years.

We’re making slow but steady progress as we grow our support to bring full transparency and genuine democracy to REC.

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Click here if you’re Interested in hosting a meeting or learning how you and others can join our Repower REC campaign.

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