On Saturday (June 9), only 411 out of 22,884 members registered at the Kit Carson Electric Cooperative annual meeting. That was 47 people shy of the quorum needed for the cooperative to take action …
On Saturday (June 9), only 411 out of 22,884 members registered at the Kit Carson Electric Cooperative annual meeting. That was 47 people shy of the quorum needed for the cooperative to take action on anything, including two important amendments to the KCEC by-laws.
Setting aside the ensuing controversy at the meeting over whether one of those amendments -– setting term limits for the cooperative’s trustees – had been approved years before, the point is members didn’t show up.
It’s not the first time.
In the last decade, according to their records, Kit Carson Electric Cooperative has only had enough members show up to make a quorum three times.
A quorum – the minimum number of people required in order to vote – is now only 2 percent of the membership, down from 5 percent a few years ago. Reducing the number of people needed to make a quorum is only one way the cooperative has tried to attract members to the big, once-a-year meeting.
They’ve offered door prizes and cash. They’ve offered credits on the electric bills. They’ve provided fun activities for kids (according to KCEC chief executive officer Luis Reyes, some people dropped off their kids and left for a couple of hours). They’ve offered to hold the annual meeting at different times of the years.
They advertise on the radio and in the newspaper. They sent letters about the meeting to all 22,000 members. The one thing the cooperative might try next year is a text reminder to those with cell phones and a social media blitz, both on the day before the meeting. The last time KCEC mentioned the annual meeting on its Facebook page was May 25, nearly two weeks prior to the event.
Granted, the Ute Park Fire this year prevented some of those members from easily getting to Taos for the meeting. Still, it is hard to believe that so few members in the counties served by KCEC could spare a morning to show up for this important once-a-year meeting.
Flat out, the decisions over how and what the cooperative is doing, decisions the members are supposed to be a part of, are happening in a vacuum. Rural electric cooperatives “are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.”
For all the controversy with Kit Carson Electric Cooperative over the years, it’s pretty apparent members don’t have a truly big problem with the way things are done.
If they did, more of them would show up at the annual meeting to make their displeasure known in a way the board of trustees can’t ignore, with their voices and their votes.
This is, after all, the cooperative that provides our electricity and bills us for it. It also branched out into propane and broadband. Those are actions the board says the members approved in 2000, when more than 900 showed up to the annual meeting, well over the quota.
In fact, for 14 consecutive years up until 2009, enough members showed up to make a quota. So the KCEC board also needs to ask itself what changed after 2009?
KCEC trustees and CEO Luis Reyes have caught hell from one particular group who think the cooperative isn’t doing right by its members.
Then again, the members are no longer doing right by KCEC.
This is a member-owned cooperative, ostensibly. That means it is ultimately up to the members to decide the cooperative’s direction.
And its trustees.
And how long they serve.
And whether the cooperative is charging too much for power.
And whether the cooperative is too far in debt, hurting consumers.
But if members don’t show up and have theirsay, then they are stuck with the decisions made by others.
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