SEC meeting lacks necessary turnout

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Socorro Electric Cooperative's 69th annual membership meeting failed to reach the required three percent for a quorum for the second consecutive year.

Officially, 146 members had registered by the start of the meeting, 139 short of the 285 needed for a quorum.

With no quorum there could be no business discussed, and Board of Trustees President Anne Dorough called for adjournment just around 30 minutes after the meeting began.

This precluded a discussion on one of two bylaw amendments proposed by members of District 2.

That amendment, if approved, would have allowed a trustee candidate to obtain the names and addresses of each member in that district for campaign purposes. The candidate would also have to sign an affidavit that the list would not be used for any other purpose.

If there had been a quorum on Saturday, the proposed amendment could have been discussed and, if approved, would have been on the ballot for a vote at the annual meeting in 2015.

The other amendment proposed that voting by mail should constitute a quorum at all meetings, but this amendment was found to be in conflict with New Mexico state law, which states that a quorum at a cooperative's annual meeting requires in-person registration, and it was disqualified for consideration.

An unresolved issue that concerns balloting is the interpretation of Section 12 of the cooperative's bylaws.

The bylaw states: "Any proposition submitted at a District Meeting and adopted by resolution by a majority of the members voting, together with any document submitted with the resolution, must be reported to and submitted for consideration at the next succeeding annual meeting, or special meeting members, if the resolution so provides."

The phrase "next succeeding annual meeting" has been interpreted to mean two different things.

One interpretation is that it refers to the annual meeting following the next annual meeting. A majority of the five member Board of Trustees — Leo Cordova, Dave Wade and Dorough —agrees with this interpretation. An interpretation favored by Trustees Melissa Amaro and Charlie Wagner is that it refers to the upcoming annual meeting.

Prior to the meeting, tables had been set up on the sidewalk in front of the gym to solicit signatures for petitions to remove District 5 Trustee Anne Dorough and District 4 Trustee Dave Wade. Representatives from the two districts explained that they felt Wade and Dorough were not responsive to their members' concerns.

According to SEC bylaws, 10 percent of the district membership is needed to bring the recall to a general vote at a district's next meeting.

The lack of a quorum two years in a row raises the question, "Why?"

Dorough, in a April 18 interview, told El Defensor Chieftain she was in favor of returning to the custom of offering members entertainment and refreshments during the two-hour registration period.

She said other co-ops attract bigger crowds with refreshments and live music, especially when members give up their Saturday afternoon or have to drive over an hour to attend.

"Most co-ops have a band. They'll have refreshments, or they'll some kind of entertainment. Something like that," Dorough said. "We went through a period of time the membership said we didn't want to spend the money on something like that. And I think it's a mistake."

She said the Jemez co-op "has a barbecue where they serve hot dogs. I'd like to see (us) go back to having something like that."

The annual meeting was also brought up during the April 21 Socorro City Council meeting, when a member of the public felt that the co-op may be occasionally counting duplicates when tallying up the total number of members, which would effectively increase the number of SEC members needed for a quorum.

"The co-op constantly says we don't have a quorum. I got the list of members for District 4 —my district — I went through it line by line," said Marie Watkins.

She said she out of 2,068 names, she counted 292 duplicates, which "completely changes the amount of voters needed."

As a hypothetical example, if SEC had overshot its total member count by 4,500 people —bringing the current count of 9,500 down to the 5,000 range – Saturday's annual meeting still would not have had a quorum, which brings light to another issue: how invested are the members in co-op affairs?

"I'm thinking of the old saying, 'actions speak louder than words,'" said Joseph Herrera, General Manager and CEO, who spoke at the meeting on the co-op's status and activities. "I was disappointed, but I know everybody's got their own reasons for not going."

The next monthly SEC Board of Trustees meeting will be Wednesday, May 21, at 2 p.m. at 310 Abeyta St.