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Hall maintains board seat at Valley Electric

Dave Hall, District 2 director on Valley Electric Association’s board, was re-elected for another term in March.

Meanwhile, organizers of a member-driven movement to remove the current board of directors at Valley are ramping up efforts to gain more signatures for its petition drive as the group gets closer to its mark.

Hall, who serves as the board’s secretary, was announced the winner of the race to keep his seat in District 2 (Amargosa Valley) during an annual district meeting at the Amargosa Community Center at 821 E. Amargosa Farm Road on March 19. Hall defeated his opponent, Gerald Nalepa, 91-32; Nalepa wasn’t in attendance at the meeting.

“The role of a director is an important one, and one that I will take very seriously,” Hall said in a news release from Valley. “Many people, and sometimes their livelihoods, are impacted by our decisions as a board.”

In the release from Valley, Hall exclaimed his excitement to serve a second term on Valley’s board: ”I feel good about the way it turned out,” he said. “My feedback has all been positive. I’ve always said that it’s about the members. Let them decide. When you get two-thirds of the vote, that says something.”

A group of member-owners, which launched a petition campaign in February amid the announcement of rate increases for Valley’s electric and broadband services, is working to remove several of Valley’s directors, including Hall.

Hundreds of area member-owners have also headed to the petition lines in light of allegations of a financial cover-up of sexual harassment at Valley and embezzlement.

VEA For change

Hall, along with several directors on Valley’s board, are facing opposition by a members group known as VEA Members for Change, where organizers launched a petition in February to remove the current board at Valley: Peter Gazsy, District 1—south Pahrump; Richard Johnson, District 3—Beatty; Ken Derschan, District 5—Sandy Valley; and David Dawson, District 6—north Pahrump were among several listed on the petition.

The remainder of the directors were Hall and John Maurer who did not seek re-election to his seat in District 4—Fish Lake Valley.

For District 4, new director Kathleen Keyes ran unopposed. Keyes is not on VEA Members for Change’s petition.

“I would like to thank all of the Valley Electric Association members in Fish Lake Valley, Lida and Gold Point for electing me as the District 4 director on VEA’s board of directors,” said Keyes. “I appreciate your confidence in me, and I look forward to my new responsibilities.”

At the time of this writing, Keyes wasn’t the official winner. The votes had to be counted on Thursday during District 4’s annual meeting in Fish Lake Valley to be official, according to a news release from Valley.

Two district directors are voted in each year at Valley; for 2019, it was Districts 2 and 4.

Organizers for VEA Members for Change have collected hundreds of signatures to remove several of Valley’s directors, which would occur via a vote of the membership at a special meeting if the group is successful.

Ken Johnson, a former executive for Valley and organizer for VEA Members for Change, said the group has obtained signatures equating to roughly 7 percent of the membership (about 1,200). The group needs 10 percent (roughly more than 1,800 signatures) in order to call a vote that would potentially oust the board members listed in the petition.

“On Monday, we sent notice to the secretary of the corporation to the board of directors requesting our special meeting on April 20, as per the bylaws,” Johnson said. “We’ve also asked the company to provide us with a paid legal counsel to represent the VEA Members for Change group, since, no doubt the board of directors are going to be getting input from the corporate counsel.”

Johnson said the group sent a certified letter asking for the special meeting.

The notification comes as Johnson said the group obtained signatures reached a tally of signatures equating to at least 5 percent of the membership. According to Johnson, once this threshold was met, the group was able to request the special meeting.

Johnson is hoping to get the remainder of the signatures the group needs to replace some of Valley’s board members by the special meeting date. The group has done several petition drives and made the petition available at businesses in the Pahrump area but plans to ramp up the drive are in the works.

“We’ll be going to door to door starting this week as well and just dropping them off, so we should be able to see the numbers jump pretty quickly,” he said.

Mike Hengel, executive vice president of communications at Valley Electric, said “there are provisions in the bylaws for replacing board members, and they (members) have the right to do that. We’ll follow the bylaws as it relates to that, just as they have to too. The bylaws are not just for the cooperative but also for the members.”

In a Wednesday interview, Hengel said “there’s provisions in the bylaws, as I stated, how to handle that. So, if we get something, an official request for a meeting, we will proceed according to what the bylaws allow for.”

The board at Valley has been under fire in recent weeks during two district meetings in Pahrump where members have questioned rate increases for Valley’s electric and broadband services, how monies from the sale of co-op’s 230-kilovolt transmission system were used and other questions involving former CEO Thomas Husted.

The Nye County Sheriff’s Office is investigating Valley on an alleged financial cover-up at the cooperative where co-op money was used to pay off current and former employees to keep quiet over accusations that Husted sexually harassed a female employee at Valley before retiring in 2018.

Additionally, Angela Evans, named CEO of Valley in October 2018, was arrested on suspicion of embezzlement at the end of February. Following her arrest, Evans was put on administrative leave, pending an investigation by an outside, third-party firm.

A hearing is scheduled for Evans at Pahrump Justice Court on April 29.

Contact reporter Jeffrey Meehan at jmeehan@pvtimes.com

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