Co-op hires investigator

........................................................................................................................................................................................

At the Thursday Socorro Electric Cooperative Trustee meeting, trustees voted to hire Ira Bolnick, an Albuquerque attorney, as investigator to look into an email.

Trustee Charles Wagner had communicated with an independent contractor, Ryan O’Connor with Survey and Ballot Systems, by email to ask a question about the process of the co-op’s district elections. The email asks for suggestions as to how to write a resolution in the bylaws that will cause mail-in ballots to be sent to all district members with at least 21 days minimum for postage prepaid for the return of the ballots.

During the November board meeting, board vice president David Wade asked Wagner several questions in regard to the email, implying Wagner had done something ethically compromising by sending it. Co-op attorney Lorna Wiggins suggested hiring an independent counsel to investigate the email and possibly more about Wagner. She said Bolnick has said he could look into the matter and report back on it during the January meeting.

Wiggins brought the name of Bolnick to Wednesday’s meeting and the board voted to hire him as the investigator, with Wagner voting nay.

During discussion Wagner asked what the investigator would find out. Board President Paul Bustamonte said he thinks Wagner already knows the answer.

“We will be investigating actions you took upon yourself without letting anybody else know,” Bustamonte said.

“How is the investigator going to do anything if you have already told him those conclusions?” Wagner wanted to know. “How are you going to investigate if you already made a decision?”

Trustee Donald Wolberg said the investigator would be looking into “the egregious behavior of promising contracts to a vendor which borders on the most bizarre behavior most boards would encounter anywhere.”

“Let him (Bolnick) do the work and report back,” Wolberg said.

“My conclusion is you are retaliating against me for whistleblowing,” Wagner said to the board.

Bustamonte denied the investigation to be any kind of retaliation and the board passed the vote to hire Bolnick.

The next action of the board was to certify the results of the co-op District 5 election. The District 5 election was won by Anne Dorough who will begin her job as trustee as of Jan. 1.

The board also voted to approve a $250 donation to Adam Paz, a high school student headed to Australia in the spring for track and field games.

Also on the agenda was an item to intervene on a Tri-State three co-op protest. Three other New Mexico electric co-ops have filed protests against a rate increase plan Tri-State had planned on implementing. Tri-State is the electric supplier managing all the New Mexico electric co-ops.

The three protests were enough for the state Public Regulation Commission to suspend the proposed rate changes as of Dec. 20, but the Socorro co-op has an interest in being present during rate change discussions in the future; therefore the trustees voted to intervene even though they have not decided if they want to support the protests or support TriState in upcoming discussions.

“We are not going to be pro Tri-State or against Tri-State,” said co-op manager Joseph Herrera. “We just want a seat at the table to see what’s occurring and how it’s going to impact Socorro Electric.”

The board voted in favor of intervening.

Three board members are retiring from the board Dec. 31, their terms expiring. Paul Bustamonte of District 1, Leroy Anaya and Milton Ulibarri. A reorganization-of-the-board meeting will be held at 9 a.m., Jan. 2.