The victory, however, is only the first step in the reform agenda. Members must vote in three separate elections over the next eight months in order to replace the current board of directors and complete the process of restoring membership control to Cobb EMC.
At the court-ordered meeting at the Piedmont Church in Northeast Cobb, members defeated the board’s proposed mail-in voting amendment by a two-to-one margin. They also voted overwhelmingly to approve another bylaw amendment prohibiting future retirement benefits for directors.
The meeting was the culmination of an almost three-year long lawsuit brought by disgruntled co-op members in a conflict with the board over the use of mail-in voting. Annual co-op meetings, meanwhile, were suspended. As a result, all 10 directors are serving beyond the time they would have normally been up for re-election.
The plaintiffs originally supported mail-in voting in principle and had presented Superior Court Judge Stephen Schuster with a proposal to allow it, but coupled with a proposed bylaw amendment prohibiting the board from using the co-op’s resources to support the re-election of the incumbents. However, Judge Schuster ruled that there was no legal precedent allowing that prohibition.
The prospect that the discredited board would be able to use the co-op’s vastly superior resources to secure its own re-election and to overwhelm the candidacies of challenger candidates united the reform community solidly in favor of rejecting the mail-in proposal. In our view, mail-in voting would in effect allow the incumbent directors to buy their own re-elections.
The overwhelming number of Cobb EMC members saw right through the phony argument that mail-in voting would broaden member participation in elections and bolster democracy.
The board’s effrontery spurred 3,600 members to attend the special meeting and vote. The largest prior turnout at an annual meeting was about 600. One after another of the members who lined up at the microphones to testify did not just oppose the proposal—they relished the opportunity to unleash their visceral anger against a board most see as out-of-control and disdainful of member opinion.
The challenge for members now is to stay the course and vote in the three elections to follow, one for each of the postponed years. Here’s the schedule:
2008: November 12
2009: February 18, 2012
2010: May 12
Here’s what Cobb EMC Watch recommends what co-op members need to do to ensure the ouster of the current board:
- Get the election dates firmly on your calendars.
- Get informed about the names and platforms of the challenger candidates.
- Become activists in your neighborhoods and subdivisions to make sure your neighbors are primed and ready to vote. Get your homeowners association involved in spreading the word through its newsletter and meetings. Get permission to put up signs at the entrances to your subdivision as the elections approach. Mobilize teams ready to canvass door-to-door and make phone calls.
Cobb EMC will be doing all the above and more to overwhelm the reform candidates. Let’s match ’em blow for blow.
Remember: Elections are at-large, meaning that all members get to vote on all seats in all elections.
Contact Cobb EMC Watch for pamphlets and other assistance at 770-592-9424.