A former Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative Board of Trustees candidate is alleging the incumbent trustee who beat him in last month’s election does not meet Co-op bylaw qualifications to serve on the Board.
An investigation into the allegations is pending, a letter from Co-op General Manager Andrew Chávez states.
Patrick Herrera submitted a letter to the Co-op June 27, which states District 4 Ward A Trustee Lucas Cordova does not live in the district ward he represents, therefore making him ineligible to serve on the Board.
Herrera ran against Cordova June 21 in the District 4 election, but lost 160 votes to 299.
According to the letter, Cordova’s state voting records show he is a registered voter at an address located in District 4 Ward B, not Ward A.
New Mexico Secretary of State documents show Cordova has voted in 41 municipal, school board, bond, primary and general elections since 1996 and his registered address is on Granada Street in Española.
Cordova did not return a phone call by press time inquiring about his home address.
Herrera requested to speak at the June 28 meeting, but was not put on the agenda.
Instead, District 4 Ward B Trustee David Salazar read the letter.
“The current Cooperative bylaws state that a Board of Trustee (sic) must be a bona fide member of the district he would represent,” Salazar said.
While the bylaws state a trustee must be a true resident of the district they represent, there is also a section about equitable geographic representation among trustees.
“The principle of geographical representation shall be observed insofar as possible within the individual districts and not more than one trustee representing any district on the Board of Trustees shall be from the same community or settlement,” the bylaws state.
While the Co-op’s website states Cordova lives in Española, it states he represents “Chili, Chamita and other areas from Santa Clara Pueblo north to Medanales including Lyden and La Canova west of the Rio Grande River.”
Although District 4 encompasses the areas listed, Ward A does not. The bylaws state Ward A runs north of the intersection of State Highway 74 and the Rio Grande and southwest along the Chimayó Transmission line. Ward B, which Salazar represents, is everything south of the boundary.
A ward map on the Co-op’s website shows Cordova as representing Ward A, and not Ward B.
Cordova’s registered voting address is less than one mile from Salazar’s home and is also located in Ward B.
A map from the Rio Arriba County Assessor’s Office also shows both Cordova’s registered voting address and Salazar’s home address as being within Española city limits.
Cordova’s voter registration also lists his address as being on Granada Street.
New Mexico’s election code defines a person’s residence as the “place in which his habitation is fixed, and to which, whenever he is absent, he has the intention to return.”
Co-op Board of Trustees President and District 5 Trustee Nick Naranjo said any investigation into allegations made against a trustee will not include trustees in the review process.
“We are not going to get involved ourselves,” he said. “We are going to get somebody to check into it but it won’t be us.”
Co-op employees will also not be involved and they will probably hire a third party, he said..
Chávez replied to Herrera’s allegations about Cordova’s residency in a letter dated June 28.
“The Co-op will complete an investigation into the concerns you raise,” he wrote. “To aid the Co-op in its investigation into the concerns you raise, please send me a copy of the voting records you obtained from the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office for the Board’s review and consideration. The Board will review and consider those records, along with the Co-op’s own records, and other pertinent information to make a determination on the concerns you raise.”
Chávez thanked Herrera for expressing his concerns and that the Co-op takes such concerns seriously.
Chávez did not return a message by press time inquiring about the investigation process.
Herrera said he attempted to get on the June 28 agenda, but was denied.
He said that he emailed Chávez so he could get on the agenda, but was told he did not use the correct form to make the request.
Co-op Board Policy 151, which the Board passed Feb. 22, 2019, regulates the procedure for member-owners or anyone from the public to speak at meetings.
The policy states the Member Matter Request Form must submitted to the general manager within five working days of the scheduled Board meeting. If the general manager cannot resolve any issues included in the request, it will be sent to the Board president who will then determine if it should be heard by the full Board.
Statements made to the Board will be limited to three minutes, the policy states.
The policy also gives the president the discretion to allow a person to address the Board without filling out the form, if they determine it is in the best interest of the Co-op.
When Herrera said he “just had something quick” to say at the meeting, Naranjo shut him down.
“You’re not on the agenda,” Naranjo said.