Co-op Member Wants Yes-or-No Answer

From the 2019 Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative Elections series
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Dave Neal Lectures Nick Naranjo

“When there is dissension amongst the ranks, Nick (Naranjo), that means there’s a leadership problem. when you guys can’t resolve — when you guys are fighting amongst yourself, that points back to the pres,” Co-op Member-Owner Dave Neal said to Board President and District 5 Trustee Nick Naranjo during the March 22 Board meeting.

Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative officials denied a request by a District 6 member-owner that each Board of Trustees member, the general manager and the Board’s general counsel say whether they have completed a report detailing any relationships they have with a person or business that may present a conflict of interest.

Members of these three groups are required to complete a disclosure report within 30 days of attaining their position and give it to the Board president, the Board’s Conflict of Interest policy states. 

Member-Owner Dave Neal submitted his request Aug. 23 using the Co-op’s Member Matter Request Form, which anyone from the public must submit to the general manager to be allowed to speak during time for public comment.

Neal’s request states he wants to ask each trustee, interim general manager Andrew Chávez and the general counsel if they have a properly-executed disclosure report.

“A yes or no answer in the public segment of the (Aug. 30) meeting is my desired outcome of my request,” Neal wrote “If the general manager or Board president decide not to allow my request, I will assume the answer to my question is no.”

The Conflict of Interest Policy states trustees, the general manager and general counsel “must disclose all personal and business relationships that could influence decisions related to the operations and management of (the Co-op), as well as relationships that could give the appearance of influencing such decisions.”

Chávez replied to Neal’s request in an Aug. 27 email and wrote that the information contained in the disclosure reports is restricted to the trustees, general manager and independent auditors.

“The requirement under the policy to make the trustee’s disclosure reports available to the financial auditors ensure there is an outside independent party, beyond other trustees, to ensure no conflict of interest problems,” Chávez wrote.

The problem is, Neal said in a Aug. 28 interview, he never asked to see the actual disclosure forms.

He only asked for the trustees, general manager and counsel to answer his yes or no question, he said.

“Additionally, the Co-op cannot control what you choose to ‘assume,’whether based upon actual facts or misinformation or just because you chose to ‘assume it,’” Chavéz wrote.

The Co-op’s policy the public must follow to speak during time for public comment at the monthly Board meetings states any requests must be submitted directly to the general manager, who can then deal with it themselves or forward it to the Board president.

The president is then is allowed to decide if the request should be heard by the entire Board or if it can be resolved by management.

Chávez wrote in his letter to Neal that he has addressed his issues.

The letter does not definitively say yes or no to Neal’s request to speak during the meeting, it only denies him access to documents he did not request.

They are also required to include anything “which could give rise to a potential claim against (the Co-op.)”

Trustees, the general manager and counsel file the report with the Board president. The reporting person can then decide whether or not to share the information with the other trustees.

The statement should include how any relationships will influence, have influenced or give the appearance of influence on decisions they make regarding the Co-op, the policy states. They are also to include a brief description of the relationship with the person or business, as well as any influence that person or business may have over them.

This would include things like a consulting contract the trustee, general manager or counsel has with that person or business.

Lastly, the person must include any influence they have over Co-op policies, operations and the Board they have not included elsewhere in the report.

This is not the first time Neal has challenged Co-op management or trustees.

He filed a complaint Aug. 9 with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission about the Board’s January decision to pass a policy that would have changed rates for solar net-metering customers.

Neal has also publicly questioned if there is a conflict of interest between Trustee Member-at-Large John Tapia and the Co-op due to his employment with a Co-op contractor.

Neal sent an email Jan. 30 to all the trustees, as well as former general manager Donna Montoya-Trujillo, regarding Tapia’s employment with a company owned by Jerry Mosher.

Mosher is the owner of Cuba Jemez, LLC, the company that will build a 2.5-megawatt solar array in Alcalde and sell power back to the Co-op.

Neal asked for Tapia to resign at the Jan. 25 Board meeting, but the motion was struck down in a 4-5 vote.

He included his concerns about Tapia in a complaint filed Feb. 8 with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission.

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