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FROM THE EDITOR: VEA's censorship 'proposal' a blatant attack on the press

How ironic that a man who leads this valley’s electric cooperative repeatedly goes out of his way to be shockingly uncooperative.

I read with utter disgust Selwyn Harris’ report in Wednesday’s Pahrump Valley Times that Valley Electric Association’s chief executive, Tom Husted, had the gall to bring an item before VEA’s elected board that if adopted would essentially give board members the power to ban the press from its meetings willy-nilly.

Husted made the case that the board may in the future simply feel that information being shared between VEA’s management team and the board, or even with a group of members, might be too sensitive to be shared out in the open — but instead of going into executive session, it might just be more expedient to banish any reporters, and even members, who might be within earshot.

A pretty good joke, if not so blatantly fascist from someone who happens to earn about 10 times this valley’s median household income in salary and benefits each year for running a COOPERATIVE, though I wonder if he might not be confusing it for his own PRIVATE COMPANY.

But don’t be fooled. This “proposal” is not some honorable attempt to protect the cooperative and its members. No, it’s a frontal assault on the Pahrump Valley Times and its ability to cover important goings-on with the valley’s only electricity provider. Nothing more, nothing less.

Since I’m the editor of the PVT, forgive me if I take such a “proposal” a little personally — I’ve only spent my entire adult life, risked it more than once, to protect your right to know things that people in Husted’s position would rather you not know.

My powers are limited. But shrill my voice will be if this “proposal” is even given scant consideration by VEA’s board.

See, VEA is classified as a rural electric cooperative, owned by its members, that’s you and me, and operated by a (highly-enriched) management team that is supposed to be overseen by an elected board. I emphasize the phrase “supposed to.”

It doesn’t have to answer to the state utilities commission — unless it jumps its boundaries like it might have done when getting that Creech Air Force Base contract recently — and in true backward Silver State fashion, it doesn’t have to adhere to any open records rules at all. In fact, it can tell me and my ilk to go take a hike, something Husted would love nothing more, if not for the pesky public relations disaster that might cause.

No, is causing.

I’m sure Husted is trying to protect something with all his talk of enemies and disseminating sensitive information and such.

Actually, a better way to put it would be that I’m sure Husted is trying to HIDE something. Because people who hide things are generally the same people who make idiotic, unwarranted “proposals” like last Friday’s.

Beware the guy making $400,000 a year who says, “Hey fellas, wouldn’t it be cool if we could just ban the press from our meetings? I mean, if they won’t let us read their stories before they go to print, why let them stay?” (Actually, a certain friendly tabloid will for the right price). That guy, the one who dares utter such foul phrases, you have to watch that guy, at least if you cherish that whole “truth” thing.

This board would be completely, unbelievably duped if it went along with this “proposal.”

What the board may not know, but what I do, is Husted is upset. He’s upset because for the life of him he can’t control every little square inch of his kingdom, every little word published about it, every little message about every little thing having to do with his cooperative. And over the last few years, the PVT has reported a number of less than glamorous stories about his multi-million-dollar generating fiefdom that he disliked.

There was the solar hot water program that VEA manages (a former county official told us that he thought the way the heaters were being “inspected” might pose a danger … no, that’s not newsworthy!); there was a salary issue that I think Husted didn’t appreciate (I am counting the days ‘til the 2012-13 IRS form 990s come out); there was an editorial where I said that I thought Husted was surrounded by yes-men and women (he thinks I’m angry; I think he’s a control freak. Everybody has their opinion); then, of course, after attending one of those super exciting, secret-filled public board meetings this summer, I learned that VEA had avoided a certain takeover of its line department by evil North Korean-sympathizing union members (newsworthy and actually good news for Husted, but still probably under-appreciated by the folks who see enemies at every turn.)

There’s probably more.

In fact, if I had to guess, this latest “proposal” about banning the media — the PVT is the only media I have seen or heard of attending any of VEA’s recent super duper secret (but public) meetings, so it must be about us — stems from the fact that I told VEA’s highly-paid Las Vegas PR flacks recently that though I appreciated what the co-op was doing with its bucket truck campaign this year, the PVT would not be covering it with the same enthusiasm with which we have in years past. See, if VEA’s upper echelon feels the need to shun us at almost every turn when we ask straight questions for real news stories that have real community impact, I don’t think we should feel obligated to provide fluffy, happy press just because they ask for it.

They don’t even advertise with us, which is their prerogative. Two-way street, those prerogatives.

Ban the media! We can’t even get a straight answer on how much the new building the co-op is putting up is costing. Most of our readers happen to be cooperative members, so I think it’s important. Husted apparently doesn’t.

Oh well. We will continue to try to cover your cooperative as best we can with the limited resources at our disposal, Husted’s cooperation, or lack thereof, his paranoia and his fascist “proposals” be damned.

No information is so sensitive, or financial report so guarded, or salary so secret that VEA should even remotely consider doing this to its own membership. How dare it even be considered, much less uttered in public.

Quite frankly, Husted’s talk of secrecy and censorship should serve as notice to you that now more than ever you should be paying great attention to what is going on inside your cooperative.