Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC): Who’s Electing Your Board Representative?

Posted in Central Texas, Local Elections, Williamson County at 2:51 pm by PECmember

(Welcome blogger PECmember whose post represents EOW’s first post, in a series, on the problems that have occurred over the last several years at the PEC. The PEC is the largest electric cooperative in the United States. Go to this link at the AAS, Special Reports, and scroll down until you see “Pedernales Electric Cooperative” to read about the recent problems at the PEC. Thanks to PECmember for posting on this issue for EOW.)

While the past year-and-half has seen some important changes at PEC, the rights of the cooperative’s owner/members continue to remain in a precarious position. PEC members are growing increasingly alarmed by the direction of our “new” Board of Directors and question their true commitment to reform and restoration of member rights.

“Reform” Was Just A Campaign Slogan for Some Elected Board Members

The PEC Board is now comprised of five “new” members, and two “old” members. This should be a positive scenario for member rights, however, four of these new Board members—who ran on reformist platforms filled with campaign promises to continue the democratic changes and bring permanency to member rights—have instead voted to bury member-oriented bylaw reform policies in sub-committees for “further study” and on unnecessarily lengthy timelines.

Given the nature of politics today, it may not surprise you that these four “reform” Board members were all supported, endorsed, and campaigned for by a common special interest group (http://www.pec4u.org). As of the June 2009 election, four out of seven Board Directors all belong to the same special interest group and owe their well-paid seats (currently over $30k a year for part-time work) to this powerful minority.

Single Member Districts: Whatever Happened to Issue #6?

PEC is the largest electric cooperative in the United States. With approximately 190,000 members in an area over 8,100 square miles, the PEC service area is geographically larger than most U.S. congressional districts. Currently, our Board of Directors are voted in an at-large election, meaning that if you live in Liberty Hill (District 2), your representative to the board could actually be selected by voters from the Kyle/Buda area (District 7), or any of the 6 other districts you don’t live in.

A change from at-large voting to Single Member Districts (SMD) has been proposed, studied, and overwhelmingly supported by the PEC membership for over a year now. On January 12, 2009, the Governance Committee of the PEC Board, which is chaired by one of these “reform” directors, hosted an election forum to present six critical election changes and gather member input. Members in attendance and via email spoke overwhelmingly in favor of Single Member Districts.

(PEC press release outlining proposed election reforms can be read at: http://pec.coop/News/PressRelease.aspx?PRID=93)

At January’s public presentation, the PEC Governance Counsel explained that SMDs:

1) Ensure that disenfranchised minorities have a seat a the electoral table;

2) Increase responsiveness from elected persons;

3) Prevent strong or urban interest groups from dominating elections area-wide; and

4) Makes campaigns more manageable and cost-effective for average citizens.

At the following January 26, 2009 board committee, this same Governance Committee presented its election reform recommendations to the full Board. In its public board packet handout, SMD was listed as Issue #6. (Board packets can be downloaded at: http://pec.coop/CorpProfile/BoardMeeting.aspx) The printed documentation stated:

The majority of members agreed that there should be single district representation, with some members advocating a larger number (about 10) of directors, with the elimination of advisory directors.

Resolution that the Board instruct staff that they should work on overcoming technological obstacles in time to make possible the invocation of single member districts in time for the 2010 election cycle.”

However, what actually happened at the January 26, 2009 Board Meeting is that Issue #6 (SMD) was never presented. No explanation was ever given as to why this key election issue was dropped. (Read the PEC press release at: http://pec.coop/News/PressRelease.aspx?PRID=106)

“Reform” Board Members Vote to Keep Things They Way They Were

After a lack of further action and failure to live up to promises on SMD reform for another 10 months, two PEC Directors took up the SMD issue at the September 21, 2009 Board Meeting. To the surprise of many, the PEC Board voted 5-2 to send the SMD issue back to the Governance Committee—the very same committee that failed to act on this studied and documented issue for the past 13 months. Not only did these five Board members vote to send SMD back to this committee, but they voted to put SMD on the same timeline as member Bylaws reforms (more on that later)— which are currently delayed by this same committee until summer of 2010. (You can read the PEC fluff press release, at: http://pec.coop/News/PressRelease.aspx?PRID=196 or view board meeting video which shows what really happened at: http://pec.coop/CorpProfile/BoardVideos.aspx)

So let’s ask ourselves, why would “reform” Board members want to delay Single Member Districts until after the 2010 election? Some speculate that it is because there are two seats to be elected in 2010. By maintaining at-large voting, the special interest group “reform” Board members, who now hold a majority of the Board seats, can capture a super-majority of the board. This will give these special interest group Board members the power to control anything and everything at PEC. Currently, bylaws and the corporate charter—the two things that carry what little member rights we do have—cannot be changed without that super majority vote.

Do we want a Board of Directors voted in by powerful special interest groups to determine who manages our cooperative, where our power comes from, what we pay for it, and how our approximately one billion dollar in assets is managed? Or, do we want a Board comprised of Directors elected by each unique district and that is truly representative of the diversity of the PEC service area and responsive to member concerns?

Thanks to the diligence of these two independent Board members, and continued pressure from the membership, the adoption of Single Member Districts in Board elections will once again be on the agenda of the next PEC Board meeting. If you care about your rights as an owner of PEC, and if you want your district’s Board member to represent you and not the agenda of another district or a special interest group, then please either: attend the October 19 2009 board meeting, and/or contact your PEC Board representative to let them know your opinion.

Board meeting information can be obtained from the PEC website at http://www.pec.coop. Or, you can contact this blogger at mailto:pecmembership@gmail.com for more information on how you can become involved in returning control of the co-op back to its rightful place—the member/owners.

Williamson County occupies territory in PEC Districts 1, 2, and 3. To determine which district you are in download the Board Map at http://pec.coop/CorpProfile/Board.aspx

Williamson County representatives on the PEC Board of Directors

District 1: Cristi Clements (cristi.clement@peci.com) voted NO to SMD.

District 2: James Williams (james.williams@peci.com) voted YES to SMD.

District 3: Kathy Scanlon (kathy.scanlon@peci.com) voted NO to SMD.


  1. Dave at collinda said,

    October 16, 2009 at 10:49 am

    This is an interesting account of an important issue before the members and board of PEC. Unfortunately, it fails to provide a factual picture of the issue.

    First, an most importantly, an assertion that a “majority” of PEC members favor election by the “single district member” approach (as opposed to the current “at-large” method) is without foundation. The question has never been posed for the membership. Last year as the PEC board conducted extensive public hearings and solicited member input over a period of a month on election reforms, the matter of “single member district” never arose. In the last board election, held this spring, well less than 25% of members cast a ballot, so how one could establish what the majority view is, even had the matter been posed to the membership, is a mystery.

    This commentary presents the “single member district” voting arrangement as obviously desirable. This is far from the case. In fact, only two weeks ago representatives of the National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association - the well-respected industry “think tank” and lobbying organization, funded by member dollars - conducted a workshop for PEC board members on an array of corporate governance issues. It was reported that the method of electing board members was discussed at length. The NRECA expert explained that the “single member district” voting technique, while common in government entities, is quite rare among cooperatives for a variety of reasons. Among those reasons is the fact that courts have ruled against that method in legal challenges. All PEC board members were in attendance at the workshop, with the exception of District 2 Director Williams. Presumably the demands of his position with the investor-owner utility Luminant (formerly TXU) prevented his participation.

    Finally, this matter of elections being dominated by “special interest groups” has become the whipping boy for some members who are closely aligned to the “old guard” of PEC. To suggest that pec4u is some widely influential and powerful machine, controlling elections and the conduct of elected PEC board members is also lacking a factual basis. The loose affiliation of concerned PEC members that created a web site called “pec4u” has no membership, no dues, no budget, no officers - none of the basic elements of a group that wields political clout. It was that loosely affiliated group of PEC members that, along with relentless press coverage, political pressure from Senator Fraser and Representative Rose, a member case action, and ultimately a criminal investigation of PEC management that led to opening up of the coop.

    PEC members deserve factual information. Diatribes that feature inaccurate and misleading information do not serve the member’s interests in any way.

  2. PECmember said,

    October 16, 2009 at 12:23 pm


    Your statement that “Last year as the PEC board conducted extensive public hearings and solicited member input over a period of a month on election reforms, the matter of “single member district” never arose” is a complete falsehood. In fact, you testified, on videotape, at the January 12, 2009 election forum in favor of Single Member District voting. It’s available for all to see at http://pec.coop/CorpProfile/BoardVideos.aspx under “January 12 2009 Member Forum for 2009 Election”.

    There were also election commentary forms filled out by members and publicly available that specifically ask the question of SMD. Please go to http://pec.coop/CorpProfile/BoardMeeting.aspx and download the January 12, 2009 materials if you don’t remember what happened at the forum you attended. I was there and I remember both you being there and what was discussed.

    As for your comment that “The NRECA expert explained that the “single member district” voting technique, while common in government entities, is quite rare among cooperatives for a variety of reasons” does not hold true for PEC. It’s the largest cooperative, both geographically and financially, in the nation. It’s service area, as you yourself testified to at the January election forum “is larger than most congressional voting districts.” State Representative Patrick Rose, testified at the House hearing on this Texas Coop legislation bill he co-sponsored, that he included SMD voting for PEC specifically for this reason.

    While I understand that you have changed your mind about SMD for reasons you may not want to state publicly, implying that the blog lacks factually verifiable information only serves to undermine your own viewpoint. All information presented in the blog can be verified through publicly available documentation as listed or by contacting a PEC representative. That’s one of the great things about open meetings, open records, and video taped board meetings…all members can now see and read for themselves.

  3. kate_is_pissed_off said,

    September 20, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    I am VERY dissappointed in the directon PEC has taken. I used to pay about 40.00 a month for energy, but since 1997 when PEC instituted a 50.00 per month “BASE FEE”, A FEE more than actual energy i use, people… this is SAD, it is WRONG ! For a company to institute that kind of extra fee, comming to 600.00 per year per CUSTOMER ! ! ! !
    They have taken advantage of the members, hideously :(
    When will you people wake up and realize we are getting our eyes poked out ? ? ?
    WOW, ONE ice storm was all it took in 1997, for PEC to use that excuse to give us the shaft.

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