Elegy on a Country Coop

By: Bill Whaley
10 June, 2018

Saturday, June 9, 2018: Annual Coop Meeting

Adios Mis Muchachos! (Au Revoir Mes Enfants!)

Yesterday I downloaded the Kt Carson Electric Coop’s “2016” IRS 990 form, which shows the increase in debt: liabilities beginning at $116 million and ending at $158 million; net assets dropping from $41 million to $28 million i.e. huge losses.

In 2016, several local members intervened and spent the year protesting KCEC’s requested rate increase at PRC hearings. That same year KCEC committed members to the $37 million Guzman-Tri-State buyout and assumption of an annual estimated $200,000 in maintenance costs for distribution lines. And the Coop retroactively billed and “allegedly” tried to cheat members out of an additional $250,000. The Taos News never mentioned the latter fraud, though the PRC ordered a rebate. Electricity rates skyrocketed.

I don’t know if “Capital Credits” of approximately $37 million was included on the 2016 990 forms. The eight intervenor-rate protestors of 2016 believe the Coop is “underwater” and sliding down the slope toward insolvency.

Just as the Trustees on Saturday, June 9, a day of infamy, celebrated the election of Chris Duran as president of the Coop, the man who “allegedly” beat down a former trustee, so the gang of Coop Trustees hit the delete button re: the 2009 term limits, voted for by members in 2009.

Consigliere Coop attorney, Charles Garcia and P.R. Stickman Bobby Ortega, Coop M.C. claimed on Saturday (for the first time) that there were questions about the quorum of nine years ago. Eh?

The term limits were supposed to kick in this next year, according to Virgil Martinez, pictured on right, a former trustee, who Duran allegedly whacked at board meeting, when Virgil protested higher rates for the Coop and raises for CEO Luis Reyes, who earns $243,000 a year at KCEC and another $47,000 a year at outside organizations, according to the 990s. Virgil said it was common knowledge during Trustee discussions that term limits had been instituted in the bylaws.

Neither Intervenor Jerome Lucero nor I could find a copy of our printed post 2009/pre 2018 by-laws. The by-laws on the KCEC web site today don’t mention term limits. But Robin Collier’s Cultural Energy institute has an audio-video record of the 2009 meeting on its web site.

According to Flavio, who changes lightbulbs in the board room, and, Jerome Lucero, who speculates that in light of Mora-San Miguel Coop’s success in eliminating term limits, the KCEC Coop Trustees have been maneuvering behind the scenes for 9 years on how to beat the 2009 “term limits” voted on by members.

Finally, the Trustees, per CEO Reyes, pictured, and Attorney Garcia, who apparently advised Trustees, decided to make a claim about a lack of quorum in 2009, and let any member, who disagrees, file a lawsuit in district court. Nobody can afford to sue because Luis will spend as much money as necessary to beat the members. Chuck Garcia of the McCarthy law firm, is an apt and experienced defense attorney when it comes to prospects of defending the Trustees against claims of “civil disobedience or alleged fraud” perped against metered members at rate hearings or otherwise.

By using the delete button, the Coop has rewritten the by-laws to the advantage of the incumbent trustees: Manuel Medina (Taos), Art Rodarte (Ojo Caliente), Bobby Ortega (Questa), Chris Duran and Ambrose Mascarenas (Penasco), Bruce Jassman (Angel Fire). Neither Virgil Martinez nor Luisa Valerio-Mylet had any intention of running beyond their term limits.

Due to apathy, there was no quorum on June 9 at this year’s annual meeting, which means the status quo continues. I remember the days when a thousand members would show up. The Coop once spent, according to its 990, a $100,000 to promote the annual meeting.

Indicative of the apathy on Saturday is a conversation I had with The Taos News editor. She happened to be sitting near me so I introduced myself to her, Staci Matlock. She referred to herself as the “schoolmarm,” a term I coined in describing her performance as a patronizing and out-of-touch M.C. at this year’s town council forums. (Tone is everything. She wears glasses and appears to be older in person than the p.r. picture above.)

Meanwhile I chastised the schoolmarm for ignoring the citizens of the community and the members of the Coop. In turn she called me a “backseat” driver. When the driver is blind and deaf, you better speak up.

Unlike the former editor, Joan Livingston, on the right, who published coop stories, the Schoolmarm above said The Taos News, what with the schools, hospital, town, and county, was “too busy” to get to the Coop. (I don’t think the occasional story is too much to ask for.) She said since “Luis had invited” her, she showed up for the annual meeting. (Clever Luis! The newcomers always believe local political perps…) I asked her if she could read and handed her the 990 referred to above.

In the late 70s or early 80s I remember getting a check, call it capital credits for years of previous service with the Coop. Maybe it covered the 70s era brownouts. In 1999-2000 I remember Coop debt of some 30 or 40 million dollars. Luis always told me that the Coop was “debt driven.”

At $158 million in debt, Luis has attained his goal. He got help from the Traveling Trustees and has been aided and abetted by censorship in The Taos News. The Coop claims it is “owned by those it serves” but in reality, the members serve “it” i.e. the “Traveling Trustees” and one man’s “flawed vision” and mismanaged diversification: Command Center, Call Center, Propane, Internet, Broadband, and now Solar Arrays or the commodification and privatization of free solar energy by your local coop.

Nobody comes to the annual meetings anymore, except for employees, their families, and a few diehards. If Luis doesn’t drive the Coop into insolvency, the current trustees will die with their light bulbs on. And the schoolmarm will be none the wiser.

Adios mis amigos!

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