Seventy-eight miles away from the boardroom at the Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative’s Hernandez office, the 11 members of the Board of Trustees sat silently underneath the harsh, overhead lighting in a large, gray room near the Cuba Co-op office’s receiving dock.
The meeting location was changed from the Co-op’s Hernandez offices to its Cuba offices at the last minute.
At least two Board members, District 2 Rep. Dolores McCoy and District 4 Rep. David Salazar, did not find out about the location change until about 48 hours prior to the meeting.
During an April 25 phone interview, Co-op General Manager Donna Montoya-Trujillo said she thought everybody knew about the change.
“We had been planning on having it in Cuba since February,” she said. “We put it off because everybody kind of thought it would be too cold and too stormy.”
Board President Nick Naranjo would not comment on the reason for the last-minute change of location. Earlier this year, he told the Board he wanted to hold meetings in Cuba and Jemez Springs at some point, but he never provided definitive dates for changes in meeting location to Co-op members.
The trustees stared at Tracy Lopez as she read aloud an announcement informing the Board of the member-driven initiative named ¡Ya Basta! and explained its supporters’ goal of changing the Co-op’s bylaws for the first time in 25 years.
The group is proposing seven changes and revisions.
These include the elimination of the Trustee-at-Large position and replacing it with an additional District 6 representative, imposing a two-consecutive-term limit on trustees, not holding elections in districts where a candidate runs unopposed, limiting Trustee stipends, requiring all Board meetings and sub-committee meetings to follow rules similar to those outlined in the New Mexico Open Meetings Act, a revision of the bylaws and policies to expand access to Co-op records, and allowing members to vote for their district representative by mail.
The group asked for the support of the trustees, and specifically the Board Secretary Charlie Trujillo, to formally announce and participate in individual special district meetings, during which the members would vote on the proposed bylaw changes and revisions.
“We would hope the (Board of Trustees) will work with ¡Ya Basta! to announce these elections,” Lopez read from the announcement.
Members attempted to change the bylaws in 2012, but failed.
The initiative is a project of the non-profit organization Northern New Mexicans Protect Land, Water and Rights. According to its website, the organization’s goal is to end discrimination and prejudice within the community by addressing community issues, through community education, protecting individual property owner rights and protecting natural resources.
Northern New Mexicans Protect Board President Beverly Duran-Cash told trustees the group wants to work with them in a respectful and productive way.
She said it was important for the trustees to listen to what the group had to say because the members own the Co-op.
Board Vice President Leo Marquez said he appreciated the members coming to the meeting.
Naranjo said he would attend future District 5 meetings, but the Board did not take any action, nor did they discuss whether they support or do not support the group’s initiative.
While members can vote to change the bylaws, the current process to do so is confusing.
A quorum of the members, or 5 percent, must vote on any proposed bylaw changes. A vote can take place during the annual member meeting, during annual district meetings or during special district meetings.
Currently, the Co-op has about 31,000 consumers.
The bylaws outline specific rules members and trustees must follow to call a meeting of the members, along with additional rules they must follow to propose new bylaws or changes to the already existing ones.
Regular district meetings must be held no more than 30 days, but not less than 15 days prior to the date of the Co-op’s annual meeting.
This year’s meeting will take place on July 22.
Members and trustees can also call special meetings of their districts.
According to the bylaws, a special meeting can be called by a Board resolution or by the written request of three Board members, the Board president or 10 percent of a district’s membership.
Members must be given no more than 25 days, but not less than 10 days’ notice, prior to a meeting by the Board secretary or the persons calling the meeting.
If a member-proposed initiative is approved during a regular or special district meeting, it must be submitted for consideration during the next annual member meeting.
Members can also make a proposal to change the bylaws prior to the Co-op’s annual meeting, during which members can vote on the change.
¡Ya Basta! initiative members plan to hold special meetings in all six districts, prior to this year’s annual meeting. If the meetings occur after the July 22 annual meeting, they will have to wait until the 2019 annual meeting for the Board to review their initiative.
While this is the first time initiative supporters directly addressed the Board, Montoya-Trujillo already knew what the group would discuss during the Board meeting.
On April 25, two days prior to the Board meeting, ¡Ya Basta! members held a meeting at the Nambé Community Center.
McCoy, Salazar and District 5 Rep. Bruce Duran attended this meeting.
Montoya-Trujillo arrived about 30 minutes after the meeting started and did not announce herself when she entered the room.
She proceeded to record the meeting on her cell phone, as well as take photos of participants.
Duran-Cash asked her to introduce herself to the audience. While members asked her questions, she declined to answer in her capacity as Co-op general manager and made no comments during the meeting, other than to tell the group the Board approved a meeting schedule at the beginning of the year and that the Board knew there would be a meeting at the Cuba office.
During the April 27 meeting, Co-op member Dave Neal thanked Trujillo-Montoya during time for public comment, for responding to his financial document requests.
During the Nambé meeting, the group originally discussed three potential bylaw changes, before expanding it to the seven they presented to the Board of Trustees.
During this discussion, Neal said the word corruption several times.
He also said the members do not have the same oversight of the Board of Trustees as they do for other elected bodies, such as a county commission.
Lopez read the letter during time for public comment, during which members were given three minutes to speak.
In past meetings, members were given five to 10 minutes to speak, except for a brief period at the end of last year, when Naranjo eliminated time for public comment, altogether.
“I understand you have a meeting to facilitate and we are not going to be here all day,” Co-op member Marcie Martinez said to the Board. “We traveled quite a distance to be at this meeting and to be limited on our comments, especially as member-owners, this is our meeting, actually, so I feel that anybody who wants to speak should have basically the time that they need.”