KCEC: The Scapegoat and the Goats

By: Bill Whaley
4 December, 2016

Kafkaesque language aims at Creating Confusion

Introduction

According to Wikipedia, Reiner Stach (born 1951) is a German author, biographer of Franz Kafka, publisher, and publicist. Stach lives and works in Berlin and has received literary awards and published several works, including a biographic trilogy about Franz Kafka.

Some of you may remember Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” as required reading in school.  A salesman wakes up one day as a beetle or bug and tries to carry on as if life is normal. Kafka introduced the surreal into literature as the real, while basing his imaginative literature on actual circumstances. In Stach’s words the Kafakaesque is a “peculiar form of rhetoric, which obscures the situation with analytical precision.”

Interveners

After a year of pursuing information from Kit Carson Electric Cooperative along with seven other interveners, protesting the Coop rate increase, I find KCEC more Kafka-like than a product of best business practices. We learned how elected officials and management of a diversified electrical cooperative have confused themselves, regulators, and members with gobbledygook and propaganda aimed at toadies and the reflections in the mirror.

What the Fight Means?

Recently, a fight between two trustees during a board meeting, apparently motivated by differences of opinions regarding “personnel” and “financial issues” devolved into insults, blows, and scandal.

The scandal turns out to be a godsend for Trustees who have diverted attention from their own exposure as negligent stewards of the members’ trust. Diversification, bad management practices, impromptu decisions have all added up to enormous debt and failed (Call Center, Command Center, Propane, Internet)projects and a failing project (Broadband).

Guzman: the final catastrophe

Now comes the current deal with the Guzman buy-out of Tri-State for $37 million, which means members will pay an extraordinary and basically unregulated fee each month for the cost of fuel to generate power or whatever Guzman finds appropriate as the “lender of last resort.” Thanks to a loophole, under the aegis of the “fuel and purchased power cost adjustment clause,” the fee outlined on members’ bill, is subject to the electricity provider’s own interpretation. This pass-through fee, in fact, has created a volume of complaints on the part of residential and business members during the last few months.

Freudian Motives

The cooperative, created to serve members, has been transformed into an institution today that serves the ego of the CEO and pocket books of the Trustees.

Only one Trustee, Virgil Martinez, who came a cropper of a man, twenty years his junior, Trustee Chris Duran, opposed the current rate increase. He also voted in the past against the Broadband snafu, and against raises for the CEO, who has failed six out of the last eight years to meet USDA/RUS minimum benchmarks.

The Trustee’s Response

Trustee Duran laid the wood to Virgil’s head, lip, eyes, and teeth and thereby terminated the executive discussion about personnel and finance. Consequently, according to eyewitnesses, accounts previously published, as well as hearsay from Trustees friends and relatives, not to mention Virgil himself, the onetime County Commissioner and twenty-year board member, found himself in supine capitulation upon the floor. Some will say Virgil is a victim of freely spoken speech and his own tongue or the insults aimed at a colleague, twenty years his junior.

On the one hand we have hard-boiled comedy. Sure Mr. Duran reacted in Machismo fashion, apparently, as the Trustees did nothing while  the tempers of two men heated up and burst into flame. And so the young man turned on the old man, who allegedly grabbed him, but with fists.

But there’s more that you may have forgotten about the KCEC culture: a current Trustee once brought her father to a meeting in order to shame her male colleagues into “appropriate behavior.” Another Trustee engaged a brief but devastating joyride with a KCEC lineman’s wife, according to other Trustees. Trustees used to routinely inform this reporter about the pilfering of wood and used equipment and excessive travel by fellow trustees. The CEO made himself famous in the Mother’s Day episode by attacking the police and threatening cops and E911 employees with their jobs, according to the police reports in my possession. And, of course, robbers, office romance, sex and money, all add up to a culture of Trustee fraternization.

KAFKA at the PRC

The Kafkaesque and Administrative laws meet at the PRC hearings and at hearings under the direction of the PRC’s appointed examiner. Precise rules apply to costs, legal arguments and case law, estimates of power usage and arcane enumeration of tree cutting costs or depreciation schedules. Meanwhile the hearing process prohibits the analysis of the Coop’s (diversification) practices, which practices impact KCEC personnel and expenses. There is no accountability to speak of.

Still these precise definitions function in reality as a springboard for interpretation and argument. But CEO Luis Reyes could not explain satisfactorily, under probing by the Hearing Officer, the muddled and consolidated financial reports, prepared by his own consultants and accountants. He did not explain why he was given salary boosts and perks despite failing to make TIER six out of eight years. In the interrogatories, Reyes claimed he spent “40%” of his time on the [failing] Broadband project.

Trustees Contributions

At the PRC hearings, the Trustees appear, so as to get paid $150 per day. Yet they say little, and, according to their blank stares, understand less. The Interveners, on the other hand, represent themselves and members, question and confront a host of paid experts, including the PRC staff, KCEC consultants, and the $500,000 shark-toothed attorneys from KCEC’s Cuddy/McCarthy law firm. You might say that we, like Virgil, brought a knife to a gunfight.

Virgil: the Scapegoat

What happened to Virgil in the “beat-down” by the younger Trustee exemplifies what is happening to us members as KCEC Trustees and Management “beat us down” with higher and higher electricity rates. We members have apparently developed a “taste for taking shit.” Right or wrong, Virgil took several blows in the face for the Members and Employees. Viva Virgil

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