The MEC did it again! On February 23, 2023, I received a letter via email from the MEC Attorney, George Wright. Not only does this letter continue to deny my access to records available by law, but Attorney Wright filled the letter with false and misleading information. I will discuss Attorney Wright’s letter and my response in this article.
In Attorney Wright’s opening paragraph, he provided a list of items he wrote “had previously been furnished” to me. This list included the minutes of all annual meetings and records approved by the members for the past three years.
I found this opening troubling to say the least since Attorney Wright was the one who sent me a letter on November 3, 2022, denying my request to inspect and copy the meeting minutes and accounting records.
I have included a link to that letter for you to read if you haven’t already done so. However, the third paragraph of Attorney Wright’s denial letter read, “In summary, Mr. Root is NOT entitled to review and copy any records of Mountain Electric Cooperative. Please advise Mr. Root that he will not be allowed to inspect and or copy any records or minutes of Mountain Electric Cooperative. At the Board meeting, he demanded this be furnished to him by tomorrow, November 4, 2022. Please advise him that these will not be available to him either tomorrow or at any other date.”
I found it astonishing that he would write that I am NOT entitled to view and copy any records of Mountain Electric Cooperative and now report that the records had previously been furnished. Attorney Wright has to know that he and the MEC Board of Directors have consistently refused to provide me with the records I have requested.
However, on the winning side of this disagreement, the MEC has now made the meeting minutes from the annual members’ meeting available on their website. (MEC Member Meetings Information)
Sadly, you cannot glean anything meaningful from these minutes. More importantly, the MEC Board of Directors does not maintain minutes for their monthly Board meetings, including the meeting held on the same date as the annual members’ meetings. We, as members, are not allowed to know what happens in these meetings.
They have already published the minutes from the 2022 annual meeting, but the members have not met and approved those minutes. Yet, there they are posted on the MEC website.
If you have been following this series, you know I was also asking for access to accounting records. I’d heard that the independent consultant had told the MEC Board of Directors that the cooperative could face bankruptcy if they did not raise rates by a minimum of 2% per year for the next three years.
Another win for us is that the MEC has now published the audit reports provided by the independent consultant for the past three years. (MEC Annual Audit Reports) These are records that had previously been denied.
When you read the published reports, you learn that the 2022 report supports the information regarding the cooperative’s need to raise rates or potentially face bankruptcy in the future. The 2022 report reads, “In preparing the financial statements, management is required to evaluate whether there are conditions or events, considered in the aggregate, that raise substantial doubt about Mountain Electric Cooperative, Inc.’s ability to continue as a going concern within one year after the date that the financial statements are available to be issued.” This is the first time in the three years of posted audit reports that this information has been posted. This section also supports the warning regarding the possible future financial position of the cooperative.
I also found it amazing that Attorney Wright wrote in his letter that my concerns with the decisions and actions of the MEC Board of Directors have been “fully investigated” by the Board of Directors and members of management and were found to be “simply not true.”
The Board investigating themselves appears to be like the fox guarding the henhouse. As for the “members of management” investigating “these allegations,” Attorney Wright failed to acknowledge that the emails from former MEC General Manager Christopher Stoia verify and support information I had heard and articulated to the Board.
For Attorney Wright’s benefit, I restated my concerns, and the information uncovered that demonstrated the information heard and the concerns expressed appear to have been substantiated. Please read my response letter to Attorney Wright for more information on this.
Attorney Wright wrote that I am “propagating” a false narrative and they “have heard absolutely nothing” regarding the other concerns I have expressed, and the only evidence of any concerns by any members are “the rumors” I am propagating.
He also wrote, “This leads us to conclude that the false narratives which you are propagating further demonstrates that your request for records is not made in good faith, nor for proper purpose.”
This self-serving statement once again ignores the facts and is being used in his effort to deny me access to the records I have requested—namely, the complete membership list. Attorney Wright and the Board of Directors fear members of our Cooperative becoming aware of the substantiated information I have uncovered since first contacting the Mountain Electric Cooperative on August 26, 2022.
They ignore the accuracy of the information provided and work to exclude members from gaining information needed to hold the elected Board of Directors accountable for their decisions and actions. They also ignore that I am a member of the Mountain Electric Cooperative in good standing. That fact alone entitles me to make specific requests for records.
If you recall from Episode 009, during my conversation with MEC Vice President Lacey, he said, “I want to see what evidence you have.” I wrote to Attorney Wright that he and the Board know the records needed to prove or disprove the information being circulated are entirely in the hands of the MEC. So to deny access to records and demand members provide proof of anything is hypocritical.
My response to Attorney Wright also indicated that my letters to the editor of the Tomahawk Newspaper were clear and accurate. I expressed my concern with the secrecy surrounding the MEC Board of Directors. I posed questions that expressed my concerns about infrastructure issues and the financial decisions of the Board of Directors.
Attorney Wright (even if unintentionally) conditionally approved my access to the membership list for MEC District One but denied my request for the entire membership list. I responded to this but will address those efforts in a separate article.
In closing, the games being played by the Mountain Electric Cooperative Board of Directors, through their attorney (George Wright), demonstrate their dedication to preventing cooperative members from inspecting and copying records, despite requests being made in compliance with governing Tennessee law.