Most issues put off during co-op hearing

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Little was accomplished on Monday during what was scheduled as a motions hearing in the countersuit against Socorro Electric Cooperative. The only matter addressed by the judge was on the co-op’s motion for a protective order against a member of its board of trustees, who was initially named as representative of the class of member-owners in the countersuit, which calls for class action certification.

During the telephonic hearing that lasted less than 25 minutes, District Judge Albert J. Mitchell didn’t rule on the matter but issued a stay in discovery until March 21, the date of the next hearing when that, and numerous other issues, will be addressed. That means for now the co-op doesn’t have to turn over to District 5 Trustee Charlie Wagner information he requested regarding payments made to co-op attorneys.

Darin Foster, an attorney representing Socorro Electric, requested Monday’s hearing so the judge could address several pending motions the co-op filed in recent weeks.

Attorneys who brought the countersuit answered back with several filings of their own — including one that amends the countersuit to remove Wagner as class representative, thus rendering some of the co-op’s motions moot. Late last week they filed another motion to abate the hearing, given the short time frame.

Judge Mitchell admitted he hadn’t read all the motions and responses that had been filed and expressed frustration that he scheduled a hearing to address all pending motions only to have more dropped in his lap just prior to the hearing date.

“I’m learning how many things start to happen the week before a status hearing,” he said.

Mitchell told attorneys he wanted an agreed upon letter within 10 days, outlining exactly which motions, responses and issues were to be addressed at the March 21 hearing. He also moved up the time of the scheduled hearing, to be held at the 13th Judicial Court District Courthouse in Los Lunas, to 2 p.m.

“We’ve got a lot to do,” he said.

Foster and William “Bill” Ikard, the lead attorney bringing the countersuit, agreed that the first matter to be tackled during the March 21 hearing was the amended countersuit.

Ikard said if the judge agreed to grant leave, a lot of the co-op’s motions would be cleared up. If not, “we’ll have to go back to home plate and start over again,” he said.

“What Mr. Ikard is attempting to do is bring in defendants who are no longer defendants into this case,” Foster responded, but the judge cut him off.

“We’re not going to argue today,” Mitchell said. He then told the attorneys to narrow down what issues were to be discussed at the next hearing.

Mitchell also brought up the unresolved matter of attorney fees he awarded to Ikard’s Austin, Texas, law firm, the Deschamps & Kortemeier law firm of Socorro and Socorro attorneys Thomas Fitch and Polly Ann Tausch, all of whom defended the original case Socorro Electric brought against its member-owners. Mitchell previously agreed to temporarily delay payment, totaling $13,000. He noted during Monday’s hearing that Fitch and Tausch had recently filed a motion requesting leave from further litigation in the case. The judge said he’d decide on those matters on March 21.

“I need to get that cleaned up,” he said.

Socorro Electric brought the original lawsuit against its member-owners in June 2010 in an effort to block new bylaws that require the co-op to operate with greater transparency.

The countersuit was filed against the members of the board of trustees who voted to bring the suit, four former trustees and the co-op’s former general manager, charging breach of fiduciary duty, wasteful spending and fraud.

 


-- Email the author at tslast@dchieftain.com.