It seems that rogues are everywhere to be found at all levels of today’s body politic and I am not referring to Rogue, the fictional superhero from X-Men. One need not look very far. Don Zimmerman, Austin City Council member (and one-time failed candidate for the PEC board) is busy suing the city of Austin. University of Texas regent Wallace Hall entertains himself by suing the University system. One could argue that Ted Cruz is the rogue of the United States Senate for continually trying to shut down the federal government. As an indicator of this depressing new American epidemic, whole business courses are now offered on dealing with rogue board members.
In the end, rogues accomplish little or nothing other than to cause great time and expense to be spent on their behalf. Some will argue that rogues are heroes. As one who served on the PEC board for 6 productive years, I hold a different view. To encounter a board rogue is to meet someone with the narcissistic delusion that they are right and everyone else is wrong. They offer no real solutions, just objections. They believe rules are for everyone else. They abuse and obfuscate the intent of modern law by making endless, insatiable demands for mountains of data, all for their own edification. Their demands are indifferent to the cost in time and resources of serving them. They assume the role of David, single-handedly fighting the evil Goliath. To that end they are very skilled at creating for themselves the role of the aggrieved party–the martyr. Most rogues are self-interested. Put simply, it is all about them.
There are several dictionary definitions of what makes a “rogue” but the best of them applies to elephants. We are all familiar with the term, rogue elephant. A “rogue elephant is one that is driven away or living apart from the herd and having destructive tendencies.”
Pedernales Electric Cooperative has its own rogue in Director Chris Perry. The above definitions fit Mr. Perry like one of Sen. Fraser’s infamous custom suits from Texas Clothiers. Mr. Perry, a sitting member of the PEC board of directors, is suing the very cooperative he was elected to serve. If this appeals to some, fine. But to borrow a famous line from the late Senator Lloyd Bensten, Mr. Perry, you’re no hero.
On 5/5/15, the Austin American Statesman reported on a lawsuit filed by “co-op director Chris Perry – who has long pushed to allow other providers to sell power to co-op members.” He seeks to gain access to co-op’s agreements with LCRA, which accounts for 84% of wholesale power bought by the co-op. “PEC has unlawfully restricted plaintiff’s absolute right to access corporate books and records,” Perry claims in an eight-page lawsuit filed in Blanco County Court. “The co-op responded that its board has not yet decided the next step in the litigation. The utility has a code of conduct that spells out how directors should make information requests, [said] board president Patrick Cox.” The article further explains that “Perry joined the co-op board in 2010, part of the co-op’s first democratically-elected board following years of scandal that rocked the utility. Since his election, Perry, a power industry consultant, has been on the opposing end of a majority of the utility’s seven-member board numerous times. In 2013, the board moved to reprimand Perry for an opinion piece he wrote for the American-Statesman and other publications pushing for “consumer choice” in the utility’s service area. That year, the majority of the board blocked resolutions by Perry to move towards a competitive market and asked Perry, who was stripped of his title as secretary-treasurer, to resign. Perry, who had support from one other board member, refused and ran for re-election that year. His current three-year term ends in 2016.”
Because I was on the board when Mr. Perry filed his lawsuit and am privy to its details, I cannot comment on the merits of the suit, other than to report what was reported publicly above.
I have known Chris Perry for 5 years. Chris and I have been mostly friendly. We have enjoyed many private and enjoyable conversations over the years. When I retired from the board upon my re-election defeat, he publicly said nice things about me which I greatly appreciated. Chris is intelligent and highly knowledgeable about power supply matters. He makes his living as an energy consultant (Windhorse Energy). When he ran for the PEC board in 2010, I hoped he would win and apply his knowledge and talents to become an effective and productive board member. I had hopes that he would become a leader in support of renewable energy, something he said he supported.
Early on, over a cup of coffee, I suggested to Chris that change at PEC comes through policy and in order to make a difference on the PEC board, one needed to develop resolutions, argue their benefits and cobble together a coalition of the willing to support them–which takes work. Or, I suggested, one can choose another route…to sit and do nothing or, worse, to be a bomb thrower. A rogue. Chris Perry, regrettably chose the latter and went rogue.
In the past 5 years, Mr. Perry has wreaked havoc (mostly out of public view) on this cooperative. His mercurial style, endless demands and micromanagement proclivities have created dysfunction and significant unrest with staff and board. In my opinion, Mr. Perry was the primary cause of our losing the previous CEO, R.B. Sloan. The current CEO, the exceptionally talented John Hewa, deserves better.
Perry’s primary agenda is a self-absorbed, single-minded obsession in favor of customer choice. Yet, Mr. Perry has failed to make even a perfunctory case for customer choice or for that matter any other policy that improves the lives of our members. When one lives in an ivory tower, visiting the trenches is hard to do. To the extent that PEC has become a reformed electric cooperative and industry leader, it was others who did the heavy lifting. In the end Chris Perry has little to show for his time on the PEC board and that is a terrible waste.
I will have more to say in future chapters on this subject…