More vacancies were opened on Valley Electric Association Inc.’s board of directors with the resignation of a second board member in early May, Peter Gazsy.
Valley director and board president Ken Derschan resigned citing personal reasons just days prior.
Gazsy, on the board since 2008, submitted his resignation from the co-op’s six-member board on Saturday citing “a pending recall of his District 1 board seat as the reason…,” Valley stated in a news release on Saturday.
Gazsy was a founding member of Valley’s Ambassador program and served as its first chairman, according to the release.
This is the second member of Valley’s board to tender their resignation since the beginning of May. Derschan resigned on May 1, according to a news release from Valley.
Both Gazsy and Derschan were being targeted by a group known as VEA Members for Change, actively trying to get them removed from their seats via a petition-signing initiative that began in February.
Members for Change got its beginnings over rate increases for broadband and energy customers announced by Valley earlier in 2019.
Prior leadership had announced that there would be no energy rate increases until 2024 at several member-owner meetings if the members voted to sell the co-op’s 230-kilovolt transmission system. The transmission system sold for over $200 million in 2017.
Hundreds of Valley’s member-owners signed the petition when the drive launched in February. Momentum increased with the announcement by the Nye County Sheriff’s Office on allegations that current and former Valley employees received payoffs to keep quiet about a former leader’s sexual harassment of a female employee and a later announcement of the arrest of Angela Evans, named CEO of the cooperative in October 2018, on suspicion of embezzlement.
The board met with Evans, on paid administrative leave since her Feb. 26 arrest, on Friday at a special meeting, and discussed the allegations against her, according to a news release from Valley.
“The board took no action,” the release stated.
Allegations against Evans include that she charged $75,000 worth of work on her personal residence to the co-op.
In previous interviews with Dick Peck, interim CEO for Valley, it was stated that a private investigator for Valley found no embezzlement by Evans, though the investigator’s report concluded that she may have violated the co-op’s “integrity policy.”
“A violation of any kind was a violation of our integrity policy. Somewhere down the line, she should have identified she had… was going to acquire a financial interest in this property, so there was maybe a small policy breakdown,” Peck said in an April 19 report of the Pahrump Valley Times.
In a release on Gazsy’s resignation from Valley, it was stated that “two audits have failed to produce evidence of any illegal or improper activity.”
As of April 29, no charges had been filed on Evans, according to officials at the Pahrump Justice Court.
Court officials also said that Evans had no attorney of record listed on her case on April 29. Attempts by the Pahrump Valley Times to reach Evans have been unsuccessful.
Disagreements over the process of how to remove a member of Valley’s board of directors have heated up over the last several weeks between Members for Change and Valley. An attorney for the co-op presented Valley’s argument that directors must be removed by members by district, where members in one district can’t work to remove a director in another, during the co-op’s special meeting at the end of April—held following Valley’s annual meeting at Pahrump Valley High School.
Using the confines of this argument, 10 percent of the members in a district could go through the process of removing their director.
According to Peck, enough votes were obtained in District 1 to meet the 10 percent requirement to start the process. The next steps in the process would have involved calling a meeting of the members in District 1, where Gazsy would have faced the possibility of removal.
A spokesman for Valley in early May said in an email that co-op attorneys and a lawyer for Members for Change had been discussing the possibility of such a meeting.
According to Michael Hengel, executive vice president of communications and regulatory affairs, Members for Change was just short of meeting the quota to remove David Dawson, board of director for Valley’s District 6.
Valley board officers announced
Valley’s board has several new officers. Each year, Valley’s board elects new officers following the annual meeting. This year’s annual meeting occurred on April 27.
During the special meeting on Friday, Dave Hall, District 2 director for Valley (Amargosa Valley), was elected president for 2019-2020. Hall will replace Rick Johnson, Valley’s District 3 director (Beatty), who was temporarily named president of the board after Derschan’s resignation on May 1.
Derschan has served as president of Valley’s board since May 2018. He was appointed to the board of directors in August 2015 and elected to the District 5 seat in March 2017.
Dave Dawson, Valley’s board member for District 6 (Pahrump north), was elected as vice president for 2019-2020, and Kathleen Keyes, District 4 (Fish Lake Valley), was elected secretary-treasurer for 2019-2020.
In a release from Valley, Hall was noted saying that “the board would follow procedures outlined in the cooperative’s bylaws to fill the vacancies created by the resignations of Derschan and Gazsy. Such vacancies are filled by the vote of a majority of the remaining directors for the unexpired terms of Board members who have resigned.”
District 1 (south Pahrump) and District 5 (Sandy Valley, Mountain Springs and Trout Canyon) members in good standing are eligible for the position. The board is accepting applications for both board seats through May 30, according to Valley’s release.
District 5’s next election by the members in that district will be in March 2020, and District 1’s board seat will be up for election in March 2021, according to Valley’s release.
Contact reporter Jeffrey Meehan at firstname.lastname@example.org