WEMC: Quit calling the co-op owner/members liars

I don’t need to recount the way P4G got a water permit, but we all know, plant supporters and opponents alike, that appeals were filed and the permit requirements were significantly increased due to those appeals.

And friends, the Oconee was too low for withdrawals in May. Period. The data on water levels came from the USGS. No one rigged up questionable data for the recent press release on exceptional drought conditions or the careful research carried out by the Union of Concerned Scientists used in their report.

I know the only day we will all agree on Plant Washington is when the Washington EMC Board of Directors announce a decision that Plant Washington isn’t tenable and is cancelled.

In the mean time, WEMC Board Members, and in particular my Board Representative, Billy Helton, please tell your spokesman and “no bid” contractor to stop calling your members “dishonest.”

As a result YOU are also calling us, your owner/members, friends, and neighbors, well, liars.

And you can’t hide behind some thin “excuse” like, “I can’t control what anyone says.” You are paying your spokesman and you can put a stop to the inaccurate things he is saying about your owner/members by cutting him off at the checkbook.

Please remember, we are the same people who have held you up while you grieved, brought you food when there was an illness in your family, prayed with you in church, and cheered your children on to victories on the ball field. We are leaders in our shared community of churches, civic groups, businesses, and schools.

Quit stooping to name calling and inaccurate statements about what we all know didn’t happen and the veracity of data.

Those tactics will not be forgotten long after Plant Washington’s pursuit is just a bad memory for our community and co-op.

You know better. Would your mother be proud?

Senators Chambliss and Isakson: Let me introduce you to my family

Dear Senators Chambliss and Isakson,

I have had the pleasure of meeting both of you when you have met with constituents in Sandersville. I haven’t had the opportunity to bring any of my family with me so I hope you will allow me to tell you a little bit about them.

My husband and I moved back to his home county 25 years ago because we wanted to live in a rural community and be near family. We raised two daughters outside tiny Warthen,  in an old farm house we restored with considerable sweat equity. We are fortunate to have two incredibly energetic grandchildren Ella, 5 1/2 years old, and Chase, 4 1/2 years old, who live nearby.

Ella making pottery, Spring 2012
Chase helping his dad at a volunteer firefighters equipment repair work day

Now that you have met my two grandchildren, I hope you will consider my concerns on behalf of Ella and Chase, the five grandchildren you have Senator Chambliss, and your nine grandchildren Senator Isakson.

The other day both of you voted to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to enforce the Mercury and Air Toxins Rule, known as MATS. These emission standards weren’t the result of fly-by-night or stealth regulatory work by the EPA. Instead, they were announced in 1990 as additions to the Clean Air Act.

Twenty two years is a long time for citizens to wait on cleaner air and the cleaner water which results from less pollution in the air. It was long enough for me to give birth to my younger daughter and raise her to the age of 22. Her entire lifetime has been spent breathing air that could have been cleaner a long time ago.

Mary Michael, Georgia Southern, May 2012

 I just can’t figure out why, after all the medical, scientific, and financial research done by numerous respected institutions and individuals which shows just how harmful mercury and heavy metals emissions are to fetuses, growing children, and anyone with asthma or cardiopulmonary disease, that anyone would agree it should go on any longer. Or the research that demonstrates that the tougher standards would actually create approximately 8,000 permanent jobs and up to 45,000 temporary ones.

Yet both of you chose to stand up and say with your votes, “Yes, I support the continuation of dirty air and water for American citizens, including my grandchildren.”

I did a little research so that I might understand why you voted as you did.  The Southern Company’s Georgia Power, which owns and operates Plant Scherer near Juliette, and emits the most carbon pollution in the country, was the second largest donor with a total of $102,650 in the 2011-2012 election cycle, to your campaign committee Senator Chambliss (that ought to be helpful if you run for re-election in  2014).

Senator Isakson
, the Southern Company was third on your donor list with $28,050 to your campaign in the 2011-2012 election cycle (on the heels of the $38, 350 donation for your re-election in 2010).

Where you trying to help your donors who are burning an awful lot of coal with your vote opposing tougher mercury rules?

Or maybe that vote would help clients using the law firm King and Spalding (K&S). Those attorneys represent a group called Power4Georgians that wants to build a coal fired power plant in Washington County. Senator Chambliss, K&S helped your campaign with $58,000 in donations, putting them at a respectable sixth on your list. Senator Isakson, they didn’t ignore you either. K&S is eighth on your donor list with $31,250.

It goes to figure that some local folks in Washington County would support your respective campaigns. I found out some of the neighbors at my farm have done exactly that. Ben Tarbutton (no middle initial or other identifier) has donated $3,000 so far to the Chambliss campaign in the 2010-2012 cycle. Several Tarbuttons have donated $9,300 to the Isakson campaign since 2009. Those family members include Ben Jr., Benji, Charles, Betsy, Gena, and Hugh.

It’s no secret since Plant Washington was announced over four years ago that the Tarbuttons have been vigorous supporters of Plant Washington. It’s also public knowledge that Charles Tarbutton, who personally donated $1,000 to the Isakson campaign in 2009, is a member of the Georgia Power Board of Directors.

There are 10 directors on the Georgia Power Board. There are seven members of the Tarbutton family who have donated to your respective campaigns since 2009. If we consider corporations to be people (per the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling), then the number of interested parties in these two groups plummets from 17 to 8. A single digit.

Almost 24 percent of the 21,187 people living in Washington County are under the age of 18. In the state of Georgia, there are over 2,500,000 children under the age of 18. The math should work out in favor of the children and votes in favor of upholding the MATS rule.

My grandchildren are among those 2.5M children who deserve cleaner air to breathe. Your grandchildren deserve the same, in whatever state they live in. My children deserved cleaner air when they were growing up. Yours did too.

So please tell me, when does the health of the children come first ahead of the money and influence of donors?

One simple reason the EPD shouldn’t issue a final permit for Plant Washington

May 15, 2012

To: Georgia Environmental Protection Division

RE:  Amendment 4911-303-0051-P-01-2

When Plant Washington was announced over four years ago the plant was expected to pump 122 lbs of mercury per year into the local airshed. The EPD approved that amount of toxins in a permit which local residents and organizations across the state challenged. The result was a second permit reducing the mercury emissions to 55.6 lbs per year.

The developer of Plant Washington, Dean Alford, acquiesced on meeting the MATS rules at start up. The much needed and long awaited MATS regulations reduce the allowable mercury emissions to 1.69 lbs per year.

Please allow me to pat myself and other plant opponents on the back for standing firm on lower emissions in a community which already teeters on non-attainment, and whose citizens suffer the health ramifications of poor air quality. If your agency is truly committed to protecting the health of Georgia’s citizens and our natural resources permits with such high emission levels should never have been issued.

Now that Mr. Alford has agreed to meet the MATS emissions sooner rather than later, he seems to have had a change of heart. In interviews with Politico Pro and The Sandersville Progress, Alford said he can meet the emissions standards at start up. That is what the amended permit requires. Period.

I hope you can appreciate my concern about Alford’s ability to meet these standards when he joined a filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit stating that the emission regulations are unattainable.

The EPD permit amendment makes no mention of any technical or engineering requirements, or fuel mix, to assure that the emission standards will be met.

Is your agency in the business of issuing permits to companies who announce, before they have secured a final permit, that they can’t meet the requirements of the permit?

Rightly so, the confidence of local citizens in Alford’s ability to meet the standards has been deflated.

The taxpayers and citizens of Georgia expect, deserve, and demand that all companies issued a permit for emissions of any type, are able to meet those standards and maintain them in demonstrable and measurable ways.

Alford’s assurances that Plant Washington can meet the MATS rule are now hollow. I urge and request that the EPD do its duty to protect the health of my community as it is described in your mission and vision statements, and require Alford and Power4Georgians to demonstrate their ability to meet the MATS standards before a final permit is issued.

Sincerely,

Katherine Helms Cummings

You’re only as good as the company you keep

“You’re only as good as the company you keep” is something all of us probably heard growing up. It holds true for adults just as much as impressionable teenagers.

If the company you keep says a lot about you, then Dean Alford’s choice of business partners raises serious questions. Yesterday Alford announced that Taylor Energy Fund LLC is joining Power4Georgians (P4G). Tim Taylor’s company is based in Colorado but the Secretary of State’s website there shows no record of the company. Taylor joins forces with Alford, a private business partner with Dwight Brown, who awaits trial on 35 indictments pertaining to his time at Cobb EMC and Cobb Energy.

What plant opponents have learned about Mr. Taylor’s business history is less than encouraging.

In 2007 five men working at the Cabin Creek power plant in Colorado were killed in a tragic fire. Tim Taylor was President of Colorado Service Company (part of Xcel Energy), the company which owns the facility where the men died. The Denver Post coverage includes this quote from Greg Baxter, a regional administrator of the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration, “This catastrophe could have been avoided if the companies had followed their critical safety procedures. There should never be such a disregard for the safety of employees.”

Mr. Taylor’s approach to company finances should also make Washington EMC  (WEMC) and other P4G co-op owner members take notice. In 2009, Xcel, under Taylor’s leadership,  made multiple requests to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for rate increases to pay for construction costs in advance (much like GA Power is doing for Plant Vogtle). One request to the PUC was for $180.2M and it came on the heels of recent rate increases customers were already paying according to the Denver Post.

EMC members should note that Taylor had to take his rate request to a government utility  commission for approval. EMC rates do not go before the Georgia Public Service Commission. The Board of Directors at OUR co-op, the one we own and belong to, but must request permission to attend monthly meetings or get information about operations, sets our rates.There is no one to appeal to but them.

WEMC owner-members need to ask our Board of Directors who they are choosing to “keep company with” before the first shovel of dirt is moved, or we are told to expect bigger power bills.

The blessings and the curses of weekly newspapers

Several years ago I edited The Wrightsville Headlight in neighboring Johnson County. I spent a year there meeting and working with some of the nicest people I will ever know.

The upside of a weekly paper is that when you print something readers like, you have a whole week for people to say nice things about the paper. When you run a story about an issue which divides people, there is always an opportunity for a week’s worth of phone calls and passionate discussion.

One serious downside of weeklies is that readers must wait a week to see any corrections or clarifications in print.

This week’s edition of The Sandersville Progress didn’t get some important facts clear about a pending settlement concerning the construction permit for Plant Washington or the Greenhouse Gas Rule (GHG, or carbon pollution rule).

The paper’s coverage did not include or state clearly:

  1. P4G (Power4Georgians) does not have a final permit, and the amended permit must stand for public comments before it can be final. This will take weeks to complete.

2. The carbon pollution rule (also called Green House Gas or GHG rule), was announced on Friday, April 13.  Plant Washington needed a final and complete permit before April 13th to be considered exempt from the rule.  In addition, P4G must commence construction before April 13, 2013 in order to avoid this additional pollution control rule. The clock is running now on this project.

3. If Plant Washington fails to meet the exemption criteria announced by the EPA, it will have to meet the new carbon pollution rules.

4. “Commence construction” requires more than moving some dirt around. It might be demonstrated by a contract for a boiler for the facility. For a facility of this size experts estimate the cost to be about $400M, with additional cancellation penalties ranging from $20M-$80M. There is no indication that P4G has done any of the engineering work required to order a boiler. There is also no indication that P4G has lined up the financing that would allow it to enter such a significant contractual commitment.

5. No company has built a new coal plant to meet the new Mercury and Air Toxins rules which were finalized earlier this year. Dean Alford, the project developer, has never built a coal plant.

6.The remaining four co-ops in P4G do not have any Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) in place for customers to purchase electricity generated by Plant Washington.

  7. Dean Alford said that the PPAs will be used to help acquire financing loans for the project in addition to the bonds it expects the county to issue. Therefore, there is no indication that P4G has the necessary financing in place for the project.

I understand that the Progress works with limited staff and that the publisher, Trib Publication, has no online capacity to run corrections or clarifications promptly.

Whether the paper is crystal clear or not, thre are people who rely on it heavily for their local news (and we have a high population of people here who do not use the internet at all). It will be another week before we all see high school sports pictures, read Shirley Friedman’s column, or find out that in fact Plant Washington isn’t “full steam ahead.”

In fact, it seems to be sputtering.

Cobb EMC abandons coal and chooses solar power generated in Washington County!

What a week for clean air and water in Georgia! We started the week with the cancellation of the proposed coal plant Ben Hill near Fitzgerald, and Plant Washington will have to comply with stricter standards for mercury and other toxic air emissions IF it is ever constructed.

Now the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released the Greenhouse Gas rule (carbon pollution rule, or GHG), making Plant Washington’s fate even less certain. Because Power4Georgians does not yet have a final permit for construction, hasn’t made final design or engineering determinations, and has yet to secure financing for the multi-billion dollar facility, it appears Plant Washington is subject to the GHG rule. That means Plant Washington will be even more expensive and much less practical to finance, construct, operate, or return any investment to the four remaining co-op owner-members.

What options does our community have for affordable electricity? Cobb EMC, which dropped Plant Washington in January, has just inked an agreement to buy 10MW of power generated from the clean and abundant sunshine we have right here in Washington County!

Cobb EMC leaders did the math on Plant Washington and accepted the fact that it just wasn’t a cost effective investment for their co-op owner-members. After putting out requests for new power contracts, they decided in favor of clean, abundant, and job creating renewable power.

Renewable energy puts people to work. Washington County residents are already working at MAGE solar panels in Laurens County, where 350 people will be employed. Another Lauren County facility using wood waste will employ 55 people. Elbert County citizens are already working at some of the 200 jobs announced for a wind turbine company in their county.

Washington EMC Directors, elected officials, and business leaders, your former partner in Power4Georgians has done its homework and found that solar is affordable and reliable after all. It is time you did your homework too.

WEMC has a 10MW contract expiring in 2014. Give us a sound business plan that supports dirty outdated coal as the best option for our community, when solar is available just down the road.

Public health professionals wear green

“You’ve done more public health work than most public health professionals” is high praise coming from Russ Toal, the former Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health. The fight to stop Plant Washington, for me, began out of deep concern for the health ramifications that a coal fired plant would have on the health of my community and my family.

Together with partners that include national, regional, state, and local organizations, we have seen two coal fired power plants cancelled since December (Longleaf and Ben Hill). A third project, Plant Washington, is now hobbled with new emission regulations, so that what was tenuous at best, now looks absolutely unfeasible.

Fighting coal for me, is all about public health. The health of our communities is directly tied to the quality of the air we breathe, the clean water we all want to to drink, fish that are safe to catch and eat, and the rivers and streams where we want our children to splash and swim. Not surprisingly, health organizations including the American Lung Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, American Public Health Association, American Thoracic Society and others have taken strong positions on coal and climate change.

I’ll give the Plant Washington supporters some credit. They do have some things they can point to since they announced the plant over four years ago:

  • 5 of the 9 original EMCs have withdrawn from the project
  • the former CEO of Cobb EMC, Dwight Brown, who led Power4Georgians, has 35 indictments against him for his dealings at the co-op
  • emissions standards for coal have become much more rigorous and expensive
  • demand for electricity is down
  • natural gas prices have plummeted
  • wells and rivers are stressed by drought
  • co-op owner-members across Georgia are angry about being shut out of the co-ops they own

This morning I told two county commissioners, Frank Simmons and Edward Burton, and county administrator Chris Hutchings, “Shame on you.” They have been busy toeing the line in this one family county for outdated, expensive, and unhealthy coal, while other communities have courted renewable energy based companies and hundred of jobs that will not harm their air shed or deplete stressed water supplies.

While elected officials, and business and community leaders here still cling to coal, local residents have seen a solar panel plant opened in neighboring Laurens County (approximately 400 renewable energy jobs have been announced there, and people are already at work). In two weeks, Elbert County to our north, will hold a ribbon cutting for a wind turbine plant that is already employing some of the 200 people it will tap for jobs.

In the mean time, FACE and our partners have worked tirelessly to see the proposed mercury emissions for Plant Washington drop from the original 122 lbs per year to 1.63 under the new Mercury and Air Toxins standards. Reports by the megabyte have been released about the higher power bills Washington EMC members will have to pay if the plant is built, the ready and plentiful supply of cheap electricity in our state, the risks to local wells if 16 million gallons of water per day are sucked out of the ground to feed Plant Washington, and the fact that our air shed will be placed in non-attainment, essentially putting a cap on any business locating here that would need to apply for an air permit.

I don’t know how much longer plant supporters can keep their heads in the sand because the clock is running for the developer of this no-bid project. Dean Alford is about to need a lot more money for his relic of a coal plant. Come on P4G, show us the return on this great investment you have promised us.

Dwight Brown wants to run the Cobb EMC faucet dry

Don McKee, who has closely followed the years long battle between Cobb EMC owner-members and management, notes in his column that for once the co-op is in agreement with the owner-members. Dwight Brown, the former CEO at Cobb EMC, has a complicated history with the co-op and the for-profit company, Cobb Energy, he helped create. Last week his attorneys were in court over contract payments Brown believes the co-op owes him (at the tune of  $13,800 per week). That Brown thinks the money faucet at Cobb EMC should continue to run for him is unbelievable.

That’s a hefty weekly check, but perhaps what makes it even worse is that former Cobb EMC Board Chair Larry Chadwick signed the contract without the board’s approval. There is a long and ugly history about closed-door operations at the co-op, much of which may be detailed when Brown is in court to defend himself on the 35 indictments against him (He hasn’t been in court for other proceedings, so noted Judge Schuster in his ruling concerning Brown’s pay last week).

Long story short, if co-op board meetings are open to the members, along with financial and meeting materials posted online and easily available to members, one would hope that such shenanigans would be much less likely to occur.

Some of my fellow EMC members in Middle Georgia have begun to pay attention to the closed-door, back room dealings that seem to control Washington EMC. Proponents of coal fired Plant Washington say they want to provide cheap electricity to members so we can keep the lights on. Instead it seems that Plant Washington has shined a bright light on the fact that the Board of Directors and Senior Staff prefer to keep the co-op owner members in the dark.

Talking out of both sides of your mouth

Since the end of January Plant Washington has been a hot topic at barber and beauty shops, grocery store lines, and church. In just over three months time local residents of Washington County, Washington EMC owner-members, and others involved in Power4Georgians (P4G) have read in newspapers and online various, and often conflicting, versions of what’s going on with the proposed dirty coal plant.

Recently, the Marietta Daily Journal reported on the minutes of the Cobb EMC Board of Directors meeting on January 24, 2012: “Power4Georgians owns the permits but he (Dean Alford) stated that P4G never intended to build Plant Washington. He stated P4G’s goal has always been to obtain the permits needed and then sell them to any interested party that could build the plant.”

On the heels of this eye-popping revelation, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy released Follow the Money,  a report outlining and charting the complicated and circuitous connections among Plant Washington supporters.

This week The Sandersville Progress has an article about the remaining four EMCs in P4G. The article reports that all calls to the remaining four EMCs were unreturned or they declined to comment. Not one member of Power4Georgians will speak out in support of the project that has cost over 25 million dollars. . Central Georgia EMC referred the reporter to Dean Alford, and said that he will answer provide a statement for the co-op.

EMC owner-members, at least at my co-op, have long felt shut out and distanced from the Board of Directors. I doubt they will be any happier with our co-op’s leaders saying that our questions should go directly to Alford- or remain unanswered.

Dapper Dean isn’t on the Board of Directors at WEMC or any of the other EMCs. None of the owner-members have ever had a chance to vote for him, or the money and water sucking coal plant he continues to insist we need.

The members of these Board of Directors need to be mindful that they accepted a fiduciary responsibility for co-op operations, and that Plant Washington certainly falls in that category. They can’t necessarily count on being shielded by the co-op if they do their jobs poorly.

What am I doing to be a good co-op owner-member? I have sent information to them as well as questions. I’ve asked for answers via letter to the local papers and here in this blog.

Since the end of January I have emailed the officers of Washington EMC-Frank Askew (CEO), Wendy Sellers (CFO), Mike McCoy, (Board Chair), and Billy Helton (my rep to the Board) each three times (I finally got an email address for Mike McDonald, another board member, who was copied in the third email I sent).

I got one response from Mr. Helton concerning news about Dwight Brown’s legal battle with Cobb EMC over $2.1M he thinks his former employer owes him, and an article on  profits soaring 20 percent since 2008 at King & Spalding, the law firm representing P4G (Plant Washington was announced in January 2008)

And now, in this week’s Sandersville Progress (which isn’t available onlinethe paper reports that none of the EMCs involved in P4G will answer questions from  reporters. Instead, Dean Alford speaks for them.

So, to smooth out some of this tangled mess: leaders at Washington EMC want Dean Alford, who testified under oath in 2010 that the P4G EMCs intend to own and operate Plant Washington, but according to the Cobb EMC January 2012 Board Minutes, Alford told Cobb EMC leaders that P4G never intended to own or build the plant. And now WEMC leaders have chosen Alford to speak for them.

And just to remove any doubt about the ownership of Plant Washington, Dean was quoted in the Marietta Daily Journal immediately after the plant was announced over four years ago, saying, “These 10 cooperatives (P4G)… are building this facility — 100 percent used by them, for them, — to keep energy rates affordable.” (I can’t find any record of him disagreeing with the quote).

Developed, built, and owned by the EMCs- or not. Do the leaders in Washington County and our EMC know?

 

The fog is lifting on a “smoke and mirrors guy”

The Marietta Daily Journal’s “Around Town” column confirms what many of us have suspected for almost four years: Dean Alford never intended to build Plant Washington.

Cobb EMC is now posting board meeting minutes on its web site for access by co-op owner-members (pass word protected with no ability to electronically copy or print). The minutes from the January 24 meeting where Dapper Dean made a final pitch to convince the co-op to continue bankrolling his project have now been posted.

The MDJ reports from the minutes, “Mr. Alford … commented that coal is still the backbone of the country and that it is important to have a diversified portfolio of energy. Power4Georgians owns the permits but he stated that P4G never intended to build Plant Washington. He stated P4G’s goal has always been to obtain the permits needed and then sell them to any interested party that could build the plant.” (emphasis added).

The MDJ goes on to say about the project. which Cobb EMC spent at least $13.5M on,  “The power plant was the ‘baby’ of now-indicted ex-Cobb EMC head Dwight Brown and his sidekick Alford, who also served as vice chairman of corporate spinoff Cobb Energy. ”

The Marietta newspaper quotes a power industry expert in “Around Town” about the possibility of selling the permits if they could be secured, “As for the argument that the permits could be sold? “Good luck,” our first industry source said. “Who would buy those, if Cobb and others are saying they don’t need all that power?”

The MDJ quotes a second industry expert saying, “I questioned myself if they ever intended to build it, and I’m convinced that if they had pursued that course, it would have driven Cobb EMC into bankruptcy. But I think Dean’s a smoke-and-mirrors guy who’ll say anything to keep his business going.”

I saw the smiling faces at the Washington EMC when Plant Washington was announced in January 2008 because I was invited to the very hush-hush event. The Washington EMC Board of Directors, CEO Frank Askew, Dean Alford, Chamber President Theo McDonald, and Hugh Tarbutton Sr. were all grins despite Dean’s statement that they were counting on “some environmentalists” trying to stop the plant.

My eyes, like those of others in the room, were opened wide that day. We heard the promises ourselves: Plant Washington would be built, owned, and operated by the co-ops.

I didn’t know much about energy production that afternoon, and no one would have accused me of being an environmentalist. And I sure didn’t know anything about being a good co-op owner-member.

I still have a lot to learn about energy production. But now I am a flag waving, treehugging, dirt worshipping environmentalist. And the good co-op owner-member? I’m working tooth and nail on that too.

Good governance isn’t just for co-op owner-members

The cows are still coming home to Cobb EMC. The Marietta Daily Journal is reporting that Dwight Brown is taking legal action against Cobb EMC because he thinks he is due the full $2.1M from a consulting contract.

If I were Dwight Brown I would do the same: who wouldn’t want to collect $13,800 per week plus expenses for three years (plus attorney’s fees of $5,000 for the contract he had drawn up).

This is a perfect example of how open meetings and transparency help Board members too. Larry Chadwick, the Board Chair of Cobb EMC, signed the contract without the approval or authorization of the co-op’s Board of Directors. That wouldn’t happen if business and voting take place in an open meeting, along with access to documents and records (and there are co-ops that discuss personnel and  contractual matters in executive session but vote in an open meeting. It can and is done successfully) .

Maybe the previous rubber stamp board would have agreed to the contract too, but we will never know. Now the co-op has to spend yet more of the owner-member dollars in an effort to break the contract and recover some of what has been paid.

All of the “doing and deals” cooked up by Brown and the Board of Directors in control prior to November 2011 defy good business practices. A court agreement between owner-members and the Board required that Brown leave the co-op at the end of February 2011. After insisting that Brown was the only person on the planet who could effectively run the co-op, the Board hired him as a consultant on March 1, 2011 to work as a consultant where, according to the MDJ, he essentially continued to work as the CEO.

It is stunning to watch the machinations of people who have long lost sight of what is best for the community they live in, the co-op they work for, and the owner-members who elected them to conduct business on their behalf.

It bears repeating: open meetings and transparency held Board members too.

What say you now Washington EMC leaders? Still think keeping the door slammed shut to members is in the co-op’s best interest? What about your best interest?

Power4Georgians law firm reports “fat” profits

The going rate for attorneys like the ones at King and Spalding, who represent Washington EMC and the remaining three co-ops in Power4Georgians, is about $650 per hour, per attorney. They usually have no fewer than three attorneys at their table. Billing just under $2000 per hour isn’t chump change.

So how did last year go for King and Spalding? According to the American Law site, the firm’s revenue increased 9 percent, jumping from $718M to $781.5M. The cut per equity partner (lawyers in the firm eligible for distribution of profits) went up 12 percent from the previous year, falling just short of $2M at $1.975M.  The article reports that K&S’s revenue has increased 20 percent since 2008, and the profit per equity partners (lawyers in the firm eligible for distribution of profits) soared by 56 percent.

When was Plant Washington announced? January 2008. 

Every Washington EMC owner member contributed directly to those profits when they paid their bill or bought an appliance. It just doesn’t seem right that “our” attorneys are making out like bandits with our money.

Do the phones at K&S sound like a cash register when Dean Alford calls? Just wonderin’

 

Dwight Brown is a national award winner

mug shot 
indictments on 35 charges 
years of lawsuits brought by co-op owner members 
awarding a no-bid contract to your business partner 
barring owner members from board meetings 
making thousands of owner members furious 
voted “Best Villain” in a national media awards competition

Kudos to Mad Dog Mail, Building a Better Georgia. and 190,000 Cobb EMC members who are taking back their co-op

 

Flannery O’Connor could have written this

Today the team I play on stepped our game up to a higher level. We started together to stop Plant Washington, a coal plant supported locally by the Tarbuttons (Southerners know to how things happen in a “one family county.”). The more my friends and neighbors, along with our partners, learned about our respective electric co-op’s  governance and business relationships, the more tangled the story line became.

This story is set in a rural community blanketed with tall trees, a black water river, and, because it is the rural South, a swamp. Another chapter was published today, and this one has a picture that outlines the characters and the plot.

The plot picked up again this morning. Some of the characters left early on in the story. Others held on into the fourth year since the story outline was announced in Sandersville. One of the lead characters, Dwight Brown, awaits trial on 35 indictments which include racketeering, theft, making false statements, and witness intimidation. At least one forensic audit is in the near future which may reveal yet more intrigue.

The story isn’t over, but this much is certain: it hasn’t played out like the writers announced in late January 2008. Flannery O’Connor loved a good plot twist too.