Co-op board censures Wagner
On a two to one margin, the Board of Trustees voted to censure District II trustee Charlie Wagner for breach of confidentiality, disloyalty, willful misconduct and working against the best interests of the membership.
Although censuring does not carry any legal weight, it is a strong judgment of disapproval by the body.
Prior to the action, a motion to postpone the action was made by District III trustee Melissa Amaro on the grounds that Wagner was not present and was currently in the hospital in Albuquerque. That motion failed for lack of a second.
Board president Anne Dorough read the letter of censure — addressed to Wagner — dated July 23, 2014, before the board.
"As you know, in the course of our duties as Trustees we are required to discuss and debate difficult and sensitive issues involving adverse, and potentially, adverse parties. We now have to discuss and debate issues relating to SEC's franchise agreement with the City of Socorro and SEC's ongoing relationship with the City.
Yet again you have breached SEC Board Policy 119 Code of Conduct item 3 'The complete confidentiality of business operation.' Your June 14, 2014, action of forwarding a confidential e-mail that I sent to Trustees regarding the City constitutes willful misconduct and recklessness and demonstrates you are adverse to SEC and do not intend to keep such matters confidential.
Your repeated use of the public forum at the city of Socorro Council meetings to criticize the SEC board, the general manager and council is an act of disloyalty to the SEC and violates Board Policy 119 Code of Conduct item 1 duty of loyalty and item 3 individual support for all Board decisions.
As a result, you will not be permitted to attend any executive session of the board to discuss the City franchise agreement or its relationship with the SEC, effective immediately. At the July 23, 2014, board meeting there will be a motion to publicly censure you for willful misconduct.
Additionally, you will be sanctioned as follows: you will not be authorized to attend the upcoming NRECA Region X Conference on behalf of the SEC. SEC will notify NRECA that you are not to be provided with any credentials on behalf of SEC. These sanctions, when approved by the Board, will prevail until such time as the Board determines you have demonstrated compliance with your fiduciary obligations to the SEC and duties of conduct in accordance with Board Policies.
This letter will be published on the Cooperative's website and the results of the vote to censure you will also be publicly available."
Voting in favor of the censure was District I trustee Leo Cordova and District IV trustee Dave Wade. District III trustee Melissa Amaro voted no.
The e-mail in question was personally addressed to the four trustees, attorney Bruce Wiggins, General Manager Joseph Herrera and Eileen Latasa, executive assistant to the general manager. The email's content did not fall under the purview of the Open Meetings Act, according to Dorough.
"If a series of e-mails are exchanged among board members that result in policy making, or a decision or action by the board, it can conceivably be regarded as an attempt to circumvent the Open Meetings Act," Dorough stated. "In this case it was a single e-mail reminding the board members that I was the only authorized spokesperson. In view of the adverse relationship existing between the City and the SEC which could result in litigation, it was clearly a confidential communication and so marked."
It was made public by Mayor Ravi Bhasker when he read it aloud at the June 16 City Council meeting.
In the email, Dorough expressed disappointment with Bhasker's refusal to meet privately with Herrera and herself to discuss the benefits of renewing the franchise agreement "instead of an expensive takeover." The e-mail also charges Bhasker with making provocative remarks and sending signals to "uncooperative" board members while shunning "a written request for a productive meeting without an audience." In addition, Dorough confided that she felt the city's reaction to the controversy was a "charade" and a "circus," and reminded all board members that only she or Herrera can speak on behalf of the cooperative.
In other action, Herrera noted that there was a conflict with the date and location for Charlie Wagner's District II members' meeting approved at the June meeting – Oct. 11 at Macey Center. He said he learned Macey Center would not be available on that date. Dorough suggested that the Magdalena Fine Arts Center be considered as an alternative.
A motion was made and seconded to change the District II meeting venue to the Magdalena Fine Arts Center, with registration at 1 p.m. and the business meeting at 3 p.m. It was approved by the board in Wagner's absence.
The next monthly SEC board meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 27 at 310 Abeyta Ave.