New PEC Board Prepared to Overrule Members

Twice in the last 6 years, PEC members have been asked to vote on whether they wish to change the current governing model of the cooperative. Twice they have voted NO. Now, according to a meeting notice published in advance of the Monday, August 15 meeting, the Board apparently intends to act in defiance of member wishes. They plan a unilateral action to pass a “single member voting” scheme by invoking a “super-majority” vote (5 board members out of 7) to enact a  by-laws change, without so much as formal public comments or another member referendum.

This action is ill-advised and unnecessary. President Emily Pataki’s comments to the Austin American-Statesman on Friday, August 12 smack of an uncharacteristic arrogance.

“I believe the PEC membership is weary of our board pushing questions off to them that we should be answering ourselves”, Pataki said.emily pataki

Really? Really? Questions of governance should be left to the political whims of those controlling the majority, without member voice? Members have TWICE VOTED in favor of maintaining the current at-large voting system. Perhaps the question should be, aren’t the members  weary of the board making key decisions without consulting them? And what other questions might they unilaterally decide? Opt-in to  customer choice? Sell the Cooperative to an investor-owned utility?

Editor’s note: [President Pataki is about to preside over her first significant test as a leader. In a leader, trust is essential. Is she prepared to permit her board to essentially ignore the will of the members? Is that how one earns trust? I urge the board to take a step back. Don’t be in such a hurry to use your new power–just because you can.]

Now along comes a new board member in the name of Jim Powers, not known in his jim powerselective history to be a big fan of governing democracy. He ran unopposed for a PEC seat last June and won–a feat he could have accomplished merely by voting for himself. Powers has yet to spend 2 months serving, nor has he demonstrated much of any knowledge about cooperative governance and yet it is he who plans to introduce the resolution.

Here is just a handfull of reasons why this action is unnecessary and ill-advised

  1. Members have already spoken. Twice they were given a choice and twice they voted to maintain the current at-large system. Who is the board to overrule the will of the members? And if they do set such a dangerous precedent, what other actions might they take without the consent of the governed? Customer choice?
  2. With a single member district model, members have LESS SAY in their cooperative. Unsteasd of voting every year for every board member, they now get to vote every three years for only ONE board member.
  3. Cooperatives are not governmental bodies like city council. PEC board members are elected to serve the interests of the cooperative whole. Creating single member districts will further politicize and balkanize the cooperative, creating competing  fiefdoms among the board at the expense of member interests.
  4. Single member districts will require enormous time and expense on the part of staff to manage “redistricting” lines. Let’s keep our staff focused on distributing reliable electricity–something they are doing very well.
  5. What the sponsors of this aren’t admitting to the members is that they are really looking for any POLITICAL advantage to control the board and they see it as cheaper and more efficient to run candidates in one district. Power preservation is not a good reason to make this change.
  6. Candidates are already given access to the names of members who voted in previous elections–those 20,000 or so names render the argument in the above item, #5 moot.

I urge out Board to review the cooperative principles below and pay particular attention to item 2.

Cooperative principles


3 thoughts on “New PEC Board Prepared to Overrule Members


    *The closer the government is to the people the better the accountability.

    Electing PEC Directors at-large was born in deception….it has been maintain in deception…and there is written documentation that special interest groups (or at least one, which sounded like it was speaking for other special interest groups) expected a pay back for helping “their candidates” get elected (If anyone wants that proof it is easy to obtain). Email me at

    In addition, the “two” so called elections referenced were marred with controversy. The first was contrived to split the vote, and the second was another marvel of getting out the special interest vote when only a tiny number of “regular” members vote. I don’t think 8,000 members speak for the other 230,000.

    But the most telling evidence that at-large elections have failed is in the percentage of members voting. Only 8%-11% of the members are voting in the elections, and we have had and still have directors who won but didn’t even carry their own districts. (Election data)

    Directors voting for Single-Member Districts elections (I believe it takes a Super Majority of 5 of 7 directors) is not a scheme, it is a perfectly ethical way to get things done that should be done. The reason we have directors is because we have a “republican” democracy at the PEC…we elect them to make decisions. If we don’t like what they do we can vote them out (at least this is the way it should be). Single Member District voting should bring the directors closer to the members. The closer the government is to the people the better the accountability.

    The original post makes a few good points and concerns of which we need to “watch-dog”. But at-large elections have failed in the most basic of democratic principles—enlarging the number of people who vote to offset the unhealthy power of special groups when only a small number of members vote.

    Lastly, at-large elections have failed to bring interest to the members. Most members don’t even know who their directors are. It is now time to give Single-Member-District elections a chance. It can only improve on what is being done now. At-Large elections have failed democracy. Time for a change.

    Joe Summy


  2. Mr. Summy, The Texas Utility Code, written many years ago, and mirrored in our By Laws, virtually ensures that At Large voting is the only legitimate way of voting. By law every member is allowed to vote on all items up for vote, which includes Director elections. SMD voting, in effect, is illegal per Texas law. Are you above the law, Mr. Summy? Do you think 74 our of 75 Co-ops in Texas are wrong and you are right, Mr. Summy? Your logic that somehow connects lower numbers of people voting with At large voting is specious and illogical. With SMD voting, even FEWER people would, or could, vote.


  3. Because everyone does it…doesn’t make it right….and none of the other co-ops cover over 8,000 sq. miles. The PEC is unique in size and demographics.

    Plus, have you read Public Citizens and Clean Water Actions Guide on how to win PEC elections? And it curious for someone not to want a copy of the PEC4U Steering Committee’s infamous letter to 5 Board Members (two still on the Board) reminding those 5 members who got them elected and what they expected in return.

    At-large elections have failed.

    But thanks for the insults anyway.

    Joe Summy


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