Thursday, December 07, 2006

An ethical board member

A letter to the editor in the News-Miner yesterday said a couple of interesting things about the GVEA proposal. The writer has served on the Member Advisory Council, and supports the G&T proposal, basically because she trusts the board and staff and their integrity. Ordinarily, I would also, but for some niggling details that just don't add up properly. This isn't so much a matter of the intentions of the board or staff, but of whether a) the members have access to the full information, and b) whether we wish to give up our control.

There was one aspect of what Ms. Felcyn wrote, however, that made me wonder if the writer understood the principles of a cooperative:
Others who say it is not right have no background or expertise to speak from and the one board member who dissents has served for less than two years.

I was very surprised to hear him acknowledge that he was the dissenter when he spoke at the town meeting on Nov. 15. I always thought an ethical board member would present his position within the boardroom and once a vote was taken would support the majority decision.
Tom DeLong represents my district. As a member of that district, I wanted to know what his reasons were for voting as he did; it might have been important to how I chose to vote on the issue. So I asked him, and, as appropriate for a representative of my district, he informed me as to his reasons. This is perfectly ethical. Why? because the board is composed of representatives, one, and two, they are the board of a cooperative, not a profit-driven corporation that has as its primary duty making money for its investors. Board members MUST be answerable to their constituents. In GVEA's case, the constituency is the membership. DeLong doesn't represent the board, he represents me, and everyone else in his district, as well as the membership at large.

DeLong may not be as experienced at being a board member as the rest of them, but he's also therefore not as likely to assume that he can make decisions of this magnitude on behalf of the membership. I think his being new is a good thing; the others have been on the board for perhaps too long.

GVEA Insider lists the seven cooperative principles under which our electric utility is supposed to be operating:
1. Voluntary and open membership
2. Democratic member control
3. Members' economic participation
4. Autonomy and Independence
5. Education, Training and Information
6. Cooperation among cooperatives
7. Concern for community
So, what DeLong did by revealing his reasons was perfectly in keeping with the cooperative spirit: he was allowing for members' control and participation by INFORMING the public. This has been the major problem with the approach taken by the board and the upper management of GVEA--they just haven't been as informative as they should be, and instead have embarked upon a spin campaign. I certainly don't object to promoting what they think is a good idea, but I do find that promoting it to the exclusion of providing us with any information to the contrary or references to their source material is very poor education indeed.

So I suppose it boils down to this: yes, basically I trust the staff and the board. But that doesn't mean I'm willing to trust them unquestioningly, and when they ask that of me, that's when something's wrong.

1 comment:

Jeffrey A. Rogers said...

The GVEA G&T went down in flames. I'm feeling pleasantly refreashed.
We all need to thank Tom Delong for being instrumental in bringing that white wash of theft to our attention.
Let me be first.
Thank you Tom,
Jeffrey A. Rogers