Complaint in works against Carroll Electric Coop | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Complaint in works against Carroll Electric Coop

Posted By on Wed, Jul 20, 2011 at 12:12 PM

Local electric coops have enjoyed immense political clout — locally and statewide — and a generally positive reputation as providers of electric service to rural areas. But disputes do arise. Often, they revolve around the clubbiness of the boards that run the coops, sometimes with little tolerance for complaints from members (retail customers).

So it is with the Carroll Electric Coop. A dispute there has gotten very serious. (We wrote about a recent dispute concerning herbicide spraying by the utility, which serves Benton, Newton, Carroll and Madison counties. And also about a film on the topic.)

Unhappy members are raising money for serious legal representation to wage their class-action complaint, now before the Arkansas PSC. Following is an excerpt from a fund-raising letter:

This is to inform you that a class-action complaint has been filed with the Arkansas Public Service Commission on behalf of members of Carroll Electric Cooperative and against its board of directors and management, seeking increased transparency, more democratic governance, repayment of capital credits, a halt to the use of herbicides without the landowners permission and more. A synopsis is attached below and the entire complaint may be seen here: http://www.apscservices.info/pdf/11/11-077-c_1_1.pdf . The plaintiffs are Dane Schumacher and Gordon Watkins, representing the membership of Carroll Electric.

Legal recourse was taken following much careful consideration and only after more than three years of efforts to work with the CE board and management proved futile. Members have been repeatedly denied access to board meetings and minutes, have been denied the right to speak at members meetings, bylaws have been repeatedly changed to impede member participation and to make it virtually impossible to gain a seat on the board of directors. The property rights of members have been disregarded, with CE's attorney implying that CE can do whatever they please on easements across landowner's property. Members have been denied information about or access to their investment in the coop (capital credits).

This legal action is a last resort taken only after honest and good faith efforts were made to seek constructive change, efforts which were repeatedly rebuffed

After consulting with numerous attorneys, both within Arkansas and elsewhere, we have assembled what we feel is the best possible team for this highly specialized and complex area of the law, particularly as it pertains to electrical cooperative corporations. Bill Ikard, assisted by Jordan Haedicke, of Ikard Wynne (IW), Austin, TX is lead counsel and Randall Bynum of Little Rock is local counsel. Bill Ikard and his associates were successful in winning a similar case against Pedernales Electric Coop in Austin, Tx, the largest coop in the US, resulting in increased transparency, access to board meetings, payment of capital credits to members, and criminal indictments against its CEO and others: http://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2007-06-22/494089/ IW is currently bringing a similar case against Socorro Electric Coop in New Mexico: http://dchieftain.com/dc/index.php/news/3439-co-op-case-moves-forward.html Randall Bynum served as a past commissioner on the Arkansas Public Service Commission.. This team is experienced, enthusiastic and optimistic about the merits of this case and the likelihood of a successful outcome.

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