Letter to the Editor


Step toward action in SEC lawsuit

Under the “Legals” section of the July 14 edition of El Defensor Chieftain, you will find a notice of the lawsuit filed in the State of New Mexico, County of Valencia, 13th Judicial District Court by the Socorro Electric Cooperative Inc. (Plaintiff) against the unnamed member-owners of the cooperative, our two local newspapers and Charlene West, individually, and as a member (Defendants).
This Notice of Suit by Publication informs us that the SEC wants to throw out three of the 10 bylaws that we passed at the annual members meeting on April 17, and that “Unless you serve a pleading or motion in response to the complaint in said cause on or before 20 days after the last publication date, judgment by default will be entered against you.”
Word of the filing of this outlandish suit broke last week and the reaction has been a mixture of astonishment and bewilderment. What does all of this mean and what can we do about it?
It means that the majority of the Board of Trustees has authorized the attorney, Dennis Francish, that they hired, in December 2009, to sue every person and every business that receives their electricity from the SEC using the funds of the members that are being sued to do so. It also means that the members have to take action to answer this suit or lose by default.
What do we do about this extraordinary suit and how can we protect all of the member-owners?
We must hire attorneys to respond to the complaint, thus taking away the risk of judgment by default, and we must start raising money to pay these attorneys by a member-wide appeal. There are almost 10,000 members in the SEC. Theoretically, if everyone of the 10,000 kicked in $25, we would have $250,000 or just half of what the 11-member board of trustees cost us last year. But there are too many people who cannot afford $25 and many of us who can afford more, so it comes down to every member deciding how much they can chip in to fight this suit and make this cooperative into a truly democratic entity where the Board of Trustees and the SEC attorney act in the members’ best interest.
The law firm of Deschamps and Kortemeier have agreed to receive money dedicated to the SEC Members’ Legal Defense Fund. You can mail your donation directly to them at 310 Church St., Socorro, NM 87801, where it will be escrowed. Donor’s names will be confidential. In addition to this fund, Charlene West and a group of reform-minded folks have had T-shirts made and are selling them for $10 each.
Charlene Wagner

Editor’s Note: Charlene Wagner is the wife of District 5 Trustee Charlie Wagner

SEC open meetings

Regardless of what co-op President Paul Bustamante told the Socorro El Defensor Chieftain, “We don’t like to hear people say that we are ‘suing’ the members …” — the Socorro Electric Co-op is suing its members. He may not want to hear it said, but it is happening!
The suit holds that the newly adopted bylaws requiring transparency of the SEC Board of Trustees don’t apply to our co-op, because the SEC is a private entity. This is smoke and mirrors!
The State of New Mexico may not be able to require the SEC to comply with New Mexico’s “Sunshine Laws,” but WE CAN! We own the SEC!
We have every right, obligation, and responsibility, to require honesty and transparency from our trustees. The fact that we chose New Mexico’s Open Meetings Act and New Mexico’s Public Records Act as our templates merely saved everyone a lot of time and effort, and relieved us from drafting our own sets of rules.
The arrogance shown by the SEC Board of Trustees is beyond the pale. The blatant disrespect they continue to exhibit toward the owner-members is appalling. The lack of trust, eroded confidence and loss of faith the owner-members have for the board is well-earned.
Rather than accede to the resounding wishes of the owner-members, the trustees have quibbled, prevaricated, complained and ignored us.
The final insult is this legal action against the owners of the SEC.
When elected representatives of any jurisdiction lose their humility and respect for their constituents, they become petty autocrats. This seems to be the direction the SEC trustees are heading.
The idea that the trustees can’t conduct business with the owners of the SEC or members of the media in attendance is preposterous! Honorable commissioners of thousands of counties across the country conduct well-run meetings every week — and these meetings include residents, voters and reporters of every stripe.
Reasonable assumptions why the trustees would want closed meetings have to include incompetence, squandering of resources, lack of ingenuity or downright malfeasance. All these reasons demand owner-member attention, recognition and action.
The owners of the SEC have indeed paid attention, recognized some problems and then, on April 17, we acted. We are not as cagey or evasive as Mr. Bustamante; we really mean we want open and transparent meetings and access to SEC’s books and records.
That’s my nickle.
Gene Brown

Popcorn, peanuts, it’s a sideshow

I thought the Pedernales Electric Cooperative was a sideshow. You folks need to erect a big tent, hand out big noses and floppy shoes and start charging admission to this circus.
I was born in Socorro but am now a member of PEC so I have a vested interest in the outcome of this unbelievable charade.
What really mystifies me is why the trustees are doing all they can to hide their actions from their fellow members. They must have a really big closet somewhere packed full of skeletons. How can they face their fellow citizens in their everyday life with this veil of secrecy surrounding them?
The whole thing defies logic. The trustees have to be members of the SEC so in essence, they are suing themselves. Their attorney who is paid with SEC money is actually engaging in a conflict of interest by supporting a lawsuit in which his client is suing his client.
I can’t wait to get my next issue of the Defensor Chieftain. This is way better than anything on TV.
Harry Conger
Blanco, Texas

Let’s have some common sense

Dave Raymond constructs a scenario in which an innocent person is detained in Arizona and questioned about citizenship because of a foreign accent or unorthodox haircut (Letters to the Editor, El Defensor Chieftain, July 14).  
It reads like a lurid stage play by Eugene Ionesco or Edward Albee. It postulates that cops have a bad disposition and enjoy humiliating and inconveniencing people with or without a cause.
I have driven hundreds of thousands of highway miles in the U.S. and have been stopped for such reasons as: failing to see an obscure stop sign; having one tail light obscured by mud; having tinted windows that were considered too dark and having an expired registration sticker.
I have never been stopped for DWI as in the scenario. In no case was I humiliated or needlessly detained in spite of the fact that my skin color is the same as that of Charles Manson, Ted Kasczynsky, Hermann Goering and Harry Reid.
The cop’s skin color was different from mine on some occasions. The officers were always polite and did not question my citizenship — although I, like most people, could have produced a driver’s license, registration, social security card, voter identification card, medicare card and several others to establish my identity.
It seems very unlikely that the hypothetical detainee in Arizona would have no such document unless, perhaps, he is an illegal immigrant; but then, most intruders have forged documents that get them released from detention.  
It is a popular urban myth that cops look forward to a day of troublesome and potentially dangerous confrontations instead of performing their duties calmly and respectfully. It is always remotely possible to be hurt or killed by a criminal cop or a criminal civilian (the latter is inexpressibly more likely) but one shouldn’t lie awake at night dreading it.  
Experience and common sense should prevail.
Kay Brower

Security starts here at home

An open letter to the Socorro
County Commission:
Socorro County has received $500,000 less in Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) than anticipated this year. This amounts to about 10 percent of our general fund budget.
At the same time, almost 50 percent of the discretionary funds the federal government spends now goes to the military. Of that, more than $876 billion goes for current military costs.
That means that the federal government spends more on the military in one hour ($100 million) than all the PILT funds disbursed in New Mexico this year ($32 million).
Recently three U.S. congressmen and one senator have called on the federal government to cut military spending.
In the letter they say: “In 2004, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld called for closing one-third of our overseas bases, and moving 70,000 troops and 100,000 family members back to the United States. National Security Advisor Jim Jones, then-commander of U.S. forces in Europe, called for closing 20 percent of our bases there. According to Rumsfeld’s estimates, we could save at least $12 billion by closing 200 bases alone.”
Twelve billion dollars spent for overseas bases that are considered superfluous even by the military. That’s enough to more than double all the PILT payments in the entire U.S. this year.
It is time to face that the safety and security of the folks right here in Socorro County depends on funding our county government much more than on spending money in Britain, Belgium and Germany.
We urge the county commission to contact Congressman (Harry) Teague and Sens. (Tom) Udall and (Jeff) Bingaman and tell them we need the money here. Bases overseas, wars without end, every new weapon someone wants — these do not make us secure. Security starts here with funding for the Sheriff’s Department, for ambulance services, for fire departments, for roads and bridges, for mental health, for food and shelter for our poor.
Dr. Richard L. “Arf” Epstein
for the Socorro Peace Vigil