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Valley director under fire from members group

VEA Members for Change, a members group that has avidly worked to oust several Valley Electric Association Inc. board members, has gained ground on removing Valley’s District 6 director, though the road forward could be rocky.

Members for Change leader Bruce Holden announced the group has obtained well over 700 signatures to remove Valley’s District 6 director, Dave Dawson, during the co-op’s October board meeting, well above the threshold needed to call a special meeting that could lead to Dawson’s removal.

Getting the go-ahead for a meeting might not be in sight under the current effort by Members for Change.

Interim Valley Electric Association Inc. CEO Dick Peck, who is departing from the co-op at the end of October, contends that the recent petition dropped off at the co-op will not lead to a special meeting.

“We told them three times that you cannot use the old petition,” Peck said. “If you want to remove Mr. Dawson, you can and you should. But you’ve got the have a petition that particularly turns around and says District 6, and here’s the charges on that petition.”

Peck explained that the petition Members for Change dropped off is the same petition created by the group earlier in 2019, not updated to reflect the needed changes.

“The board accepted it and rejected the petition, and I have notified them accordingly,” Peck said.

Members for Change had missed the threshold to request a special meeting on Dawson earlier in 2019 by 39 signatures, according to Holden.

Members for Change and Valley have been at odds on other points in the past as well, including the interpretation of the bylaws. The culmination of those arguments led to Valley stating that directors need to be removed by district.

Efforts to restart a petition drive against Dawson in District 6 began in September, according to Holden.

Holden said he has verified more than 740 signatures, where 675 are needed to call a special meeting, where Dawson could be removed by a vote of the members in District 6.

The number of signatures needed to call a special meeting must equate to 10% of the number of members in a district, according to Valley’s bylaws.

Members for Change started its initial petition for the removal of Valley’s six directors at that time in February 2019. The group started its petition over the rising rates in broadband and for residential electricity customers.

The group’s efforts were invigorated by the allegations and investigation by the Nye County Sheriff’s Office that followed. Hundreds of members came out to sign the petition in the first part of 2019.

Since the launch, five of the six directors listed on Member for Change’s original petition have resigned for various reasons. Dawson, the most recent target, has also announced he is not seeking re-election and will leave the board in spring 2020.

The other five names on the petition included Pete Gazsy, former District 1 director; John Maurer, former District 4 director; Ken Derschan, former District 5 director; Rick Johnson, former District 3 director; and Dave Hall, former director for District 2.

Gazsy and Maurer could both have faced a recall vote earlier this year with efforts by Members for Change; though Maurer had already resigned, so the point was moot, according to Peck.

Gazsy, facing a recall, resigned from his seat in May, citing a “pending recall” as the reason for his departure.

Other tension

The fervor over changes to the co-op policy pertaining to the amount of pay for Valley’s board of directors has also occurred.

The board recently increased the amount paid per meeting for each director to $1,500 per regular board meeting and $750 for each special meeting, up from $1,000 and $500, respectively.

This raise, however, wasn’t actually an overall increase, but a decrease, according to Peck.

Peck explained that up until about April or May, the co-op held two meetings, one for Valley Electric and one for Valley Communications, on regular board meeting days. In turn, directors received $2,000, or $1,000 per meeting.

By combining the two meetings together, Valley is paying out $1,500 for each director on regular board meeting days, where there is only one meeting on those days. Essentially Valley is saving $500, according to Peck.

The changes to director pay, under Valley’s “Board Policy 104,” occurred in August, according to documents on vea.coop

Members for Change has responded to the recent action.

“I would guess, 99.99% of Valley Electric Association (VEA) members had no idea that the VEA board of directors were being paid $1,000 by VEA Electric and $1,000 by VEA Communications for the same one-day board meeting,” Holden said. “Most VEA members probably understood that the previous version of Board Policy 104 limiting board pay to one meeting per day, applied to all parts of VEA.”

Holden continued: “As far as I know, the fact that the board was being paid twice for the same meeting has never been reported to the membership. Previously, the membership had been told the total compensation of the VEA directors, about $30,000 per year. Given this level of pay, we assumed that the VEA board was having numerous private meetings, not reported to the membership. The only reason that this double pay came to light, was that the VEA board changed Board Policy 104 to increase their pay by 50% per meeting. This pay increase was not even reported in the board meeting minutes published on the VEA website.”

Holden sees this move as an example of bad behavior on Valley’s part.

“Receiving double pay for the same meeting is just another example of the VEA directors’ bad behavior and a reason why Members for Change, at the beginning of 2019, initiated the recall of all six VEA directors,” Holden said. “Given that five of the six VEA directors in place at the beginning of the year have either resigned or not run for re-election, and the last one, most likely will be recalled by the end of this year, it is time for the new directors to set a better example and limit their pay to $1,000 per day, regardless of the number of VEA meetings that day.”

Contact reporter Jeffrey Meehan at jmeehan@pvtimes.com On Twitter @MeehanLv

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