Glen Black is on voluntary leave of absence from his elected position with the DMEA board of directors. The leave is through March.
In addition, Black told the DCI last week that he has informed other board members he will resign his post as the board's president.
Black is the community development director for the City of Delta. He has absented himself from DMEA board duties because of an electric service dispute between DMEA and the city, which also sells electricity to customers.
Black is not accused of any wrongdoing. "It looked like this could be a long, drawn-out issue. That's why I took the leave of absence," Black told the DCI last week.
The immediate problem facing DMEA board members during a special meeting held last week on Feb. 13 is whether Black qualifies to serve on the DMEA board under current bylaws. He was elected under DMEA bylaws which state, "No person shall be eligible to become or remain a director of the cooperative who ... is in any way employed by or financially interested in a competing enterprise, or a business selling electric energy, or is a major supplier to the cooperative ... ."
The fact that Black's employer, the City of Delta, sells electric energy was not seen as a bylaws conflict when Black ran and won election in 2011. If Black's candidacy for DMEA board was not a potential bylaws problem in 2011, it became one when the City of Delta bid against DMEA for electric service to the new Maverik fuel stop in Delta.
DMEA had been the electric supplier when the site was occupied by Bruton's, and DMEA had expectations of renewing a substantial stream of revenue from the site's line load of pumps, refrigeration and lights running 24/7.
But the City of Delta won the electric business by offering attractive rates. Also, the city's lower cost of installing electric service was an important factor in Maverik's decision to go with Delta as electric supplier, noted Steve Glammeyer, Delta's utilities director.
If there hadn't been a clear bylaws conflict with Black sitting on the DMEA board before Maverik, now there clearly is. That is the view of DMEA attorney Larry Beckner who said that the Maverik deal turned the City of Delta into a "competing enterprise" under the DMEA bylaws. "We've never competed before," he said.
During the Feb. 13 special DMEA board meeting in Montrose, the eight attending DMEA board members listened as Beckner shouldered full responsibility for vetting and approving Black's eligibility to run for and serve on the DMEA board. Beckner also accepted blame for his bylaws interpretation that qualified Black as eligible because the City of Delta, though a seller of electric energy, had not been a competitor to DMEA. "The facts changed," Beckner said.
Olathe resident Ray Schmalz questioned Beckner's assessment. Schmalz, a candidate for DMEA board in 2011, was told by DMEA staff that if elected he would not be eligible to serve under the same bylaws provision that Black had been given a pass on.
That is because at the time DMEA was in contract negotiations with Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association on the South Canal project. The contract, which was eventually signed, would disqualify Schmalz from DMEA board service because the South Canal project made UVWUA "a business selling electric energy," just like the city of Delta, and Schamlz was a director on the UVWUA board.
"They (DMEA board) are not following the bylaws," on Black's eligibility, Schmalz told the DCI. Schmalz went ahead and ran in 2011 against now term-limited Nancy Hovde after Schmalz promised to resign his UVWUA board post if elected to DMEA's board.
Another 2011 DMEA board candidate, Vicki Ripp, was in the same situation as Schmalz. Hovde explained, "If they (Schmalz and Ripp) had been elected, they'd have to either resign their posts on the Uncompaghre Valley Water Users and Tri-County boards, or be in the same boat as Glen."
The DMEA board began discussing the issue of Black's eligibility to serve last October, it was stated at the Feb. 13 meeting. The issue grew last month when the public learned directors were considering changing the bylaws to retroactively clarify and validate Black's eligibility. Forty DMEA ratepayers attended the Feb. 13 special meeting. Those who spoke opposed retroactively changing bylaws to fix an eligibility problem.
The Feb. 13 meeting revealed big differences among directors on how to handle the situation, and even on what the problem actually is. "There are tremendous differences on the board as to how this ought to be handled," said Hovde, who is now serving as DMEA board president.
Ideas aired by board members on Feb. 13 ranged from classifying the matter as "no big deal," to handling Black's eligibility issue administratively as a routine "conflict of interest matter," to a complete overhaul of relevant bylaws provisions.
Hovde told the DCI, "If you read the bylaws literally, (they would) knock out another two directors" who currently serve on boards of major DMEA suppliers.
The "language" in DMEA's bylaws is a vestige of the 1940s, and in Black's case the language isn't applicable to today's world, Beckner said. He cited small private hydro generation, net metering, solar generation, and Oxbow's methane capture project as examples of installations that could be considered in competition with DMEA because they sell electricity.
Hovde had convened a committee meeting with four board members on Monday of this week. On Tuesday, she reported there would be recommendations for the full DMEA board to consider Feb. 26. "I hope we'll be taking action to resolve the festering issues," she said.
A partial list of those festering issues includes revenue loss to DMEA, the prospect of city competition, the propriety and fairness of retroactive by-law changes, the sentiments of member/ratepayers, and the eligibility of Black and other DMEA board members under the bylaws in force at the time they were elected. Personalities are also involved, a DMEA board member confided to the DCI.
Attorney Beckner's view, that the complexity of a new world makes the language of DMEA's current bylaws outdated, is likely to be reflected in the recommendations from Hovde's committee.
In any event, the world changed for DMEA when the City of Delta took business DMEA had expected to have for itself.blog comments powered by Disqus