jerry mosher john tapia solar groundbreaking

Jerry Mosher, John Tapia, Nick Naranjo and Loe Marquez lined up for the groundbreaking of a solar array on Oct. 26, 2018.

Trustees of the Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative Board filled out reports about potential conflicts of interest at the beginning of a Jan. 24 Board meeting. The only trustee not present was Trustee-at-Large John Tapia—the trustee many believe has a conflict of interest.

Board President Leo Marquez said Tapia was picking up his sister from the airport during the meeting, and in a phone call later that day Marquez said Tapia filled out the form after the meeting.

He did not respond directly to requests to see Tapia’s form or a photograph of the form. He wrote in a Jan. 27 text message that “there is no issue with John Tapia’s (conflict-of-interest).”

He said the only trustee who had not filled out a form was District 6 Trustee Bruce Duran. Duran said he wants his lawyer, Blair Dunn, to review the form before he completes it.

The question of whether Tapia has a conflict of interest rests on his employment with Mosher Enterprises, which is owned by the same man who owns the company that provides solar power to the Co-op, Cuba Jemez, LLC.

Tapia received an employment offer from one of Mosher’s companies in June 2018, before the Co-op entered a deal with Mosher to buy power from Cuba Jemez.

Tapia stated in a January 2019 Board meeting that he was employed by Mosher Enterprises, and he confirmed in a Tuesday phone call that he is employed by the company.

The Board bylaws state that trustees are not allowed to be “in any way financially interested in a competing enterprise or a business selling electric energy or major supplies to the Co-op.”

Tapia noted that Cuba Jemez and Mosher Enterprises are separate companies, even though they are owned by the same person.

He also alluded to the fact that attorney Chuck Garcia, from Cuddy & McCarthy, wrote a memo explaining that the bylaws do not define “financially interested” and that in corporate law an employee is “not normally considered to be ‘financially interested’ by virtue of their employment status with the company.”

Garcia stated in the memo that he had determined that Tapia had no “direct interest” in Mosher’s companies.

“I do not own an interest in any of (Mosher’s) companies,” Tapia said, echoing the position.

The Co-op’s conflict of interest report, however, suggests that being an employee of a business or activity that provides goods or services to the Co-op is a conflict of interest.

The report, mandated by the Board’s Conflict of Interest Policy, requires trustees to disclose whether, “for any business or activity which provides goods or services to JMEC, or competes with JMEC,” the trustee has “influence over management, policies, or operations”; has “a consultant, agency, or loan contract”; owns “in whole or in part, hold share, or hold office”; or holds “a capacity as an employee or agent (including consulting duties).”

The report also asks that trustees disclose incidents that may result in claims against the Co-op.

The policy states that trustees must fill out the form within 30 days of attaining their positions and then annually thereafter.

Co-op Member-Owner Dave Neal requested in August that the trustees state during open session of a Board meeting whether they had filled out the form, a request that former interim general manager Andrew Chavez denied.

Neal made a request again in December, which he and former Co-op spokesperson Tabitha Clay discussed. Ultimately, she informed him that Marquez said the matter would be addressed at the next Board meeting.

(2) comments

Matador

This is clearly unethical by any measure. It is truly ridiculous to essentially have a standard that so long as Mr. Tapia is not an owner it is perfectly fine that he votes and lobbies his colleagues on behalf of his employer? The attorney offers an illogical “not normally considered" what wacky excuse is that? Exactly this is not a normal situation. Mr. Tapia has a fiduciary duty to the board and the members of the CoOp, NOT his employer when it comes to securing the best deal for its members. Mr. Tapia's new employer is precisely on point with why there are such conflict of interest rules to begin with. It's hardly plausible to think that Mr. Tapia awash in $750,000.00 is suddenly now a benevolent unbiased voting member of the board when it comes to making business decisions that directly affect his bank account. That attorney's looney memo isn't even worthy enough to line the bottom of a bird cage because it is filled with such glaring illogical gaping holes that defy sound reasoning by any measure. Mr. Tapia's fails in his fiduciary duty to the CoOp and it makes me wonder when did he actually agree to work and where does that timeline fit in with his new employer's efforts to get the contract? Did Mr. Tapia release any inside information? Was there truly a transparent arms-length relationship? Doubtful. I would say, the contract's award is suspect and should be terminated and a new competitive acquisition take place. In the meantime, Mr. Tapia can either resign or get kicked off the board, it's sad to see that he actually thinks it is ok, come on, John, you know very well this stinks to high heaven. Period. Instead, have some dignity and resign, you've forgotten service on the board is not for your employment it's to serve your community---faithfully.

losneals

Dave Neal here. The only possible way the members of JMEC can get a fair and unbiased evaluation regarding the Conflict of Interest statements is to include in the scope of work for the next annual audit that would require the auditor to view the statements and determine if any conflict of interests exist according to Board policy. I believe this is done by other NM cooperatives. Unfortunately, the Board of Trustees approve the audit's scope of work and therein is the reason it probably will not ever happen.

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