Mayor wants to see co-op quorum

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Socorro City Council echoed its position from a month ago in the ongoing effort to sever its franchise agreement with Socorro Electric Cooperative by unanimously approving an additional resolution Monday, citing alleged breaches of “principles” of the co-op’s functionality.

Nick Fleming and Michael Olguin, Jr. were the two absent members of the eight-person council.

The resolution, as Socorro Mayor Ravi Bhasker said, is a complaint against the SEC’s alleged inability to follow a set of principles. The particular set of principles attached to the resolution was extracted from the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society, the same cited on the SEC website.

“The city is the last stop in changing the behavior of this co-op … in an attempt to rectify the problems that are going on with the co-op,” Bhasker said. “The city has no intention of running the electric co-op on its own. We will, as other cities have, ask a third party who is already mature and takes care of other towns around us with electric utilities.”

Bhasker said the proposal of municipal acquisition came after the city interpreted SEC’s procedures as unable to fulfill specific duties.

“If SEC members would just exercise principle No. 4 of the co-op: have a general meeting, look at the municipal acquisition package, look at what SEC is providing, they could vote it up or down just like any other company,” Bhasker said. “If their owners are the stockholders and they make a decision, the board (of trustees) members cannot stop them. They can lobby them, but they cannot stop them.”

Because the co-op is a member-based utility, it requires a quorum of at least 10 percent of the members to be present at a special meeting.

A special meeting can be called by the board of trustees or 10 percent or 1,000 of the members must sign a petition to call the meeting. The board chairperson would be the entity that presides over any meeting, unless an independent parliamentarian is hired.

“The board of trustees would have no choice but to hold that meeting,” SEC District II trustee Charles Wagner said during the council meeting. “According to our bylaws, the chairperson presides over all meetings. My guess would be that the first order of business if the members were to have such a meeting would be to replace the chairperson with an independent parliamentarian.”

Although Bhasker said it is not in the cards yet, court proceedings could be part of taking control of the SEC within the city, if in fact a meeting does not happen in the near future.

“We’re not even close to condemnation in an eminent domain lawsuit,” Bhasker said. “Our route is to go to the members and give them information from our point of view, if the board agrees, to get this meeting and try to facilitate that with the money we have to expend up front.

“If need be,” he added, “and I’m not a lawyer, we may have to take it to court and demand that they follow their rules, and a third-party mediator be assigned, I don’t know.”

The resolution is ceremonious in nature and holds no legally binding measures. In the resolution, the city council acknowledged such accusations as “lack of democratic control,” “inability of management,” “high employee turnover” and other issues.

The resolution makes a promise that the customers’ electric bills would be “competitive” with many other entities in New Mexico.

In past meetings, Bhasker said PNM of Albuquerque would be a cheaper alternative to the co-op. SEC is generated through Tri-State Electric of Colorado.