LIHU‘E — A man completely off of Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative’s electric grid is circulating a petition to recall member ballots and redo the member vote on the Board of Directors’ May 9 decision to contract with Free Flow Power.
Jonathan Jay, a program host at KKCR, said even though he is not a co-op member and lives in a little shack in a citrus grove on the edge of a jungle in Kalaheo, he started the petition because he wants “to be a member of a community in which there are vibrant democratic institutions.”
In recent weeks, community members and organizations have criticized KIUC for not providing its members with fair and balanced information in voter materials. The co-op has strongly advocated in support of its board’s decision, urging members to vote “yes” on the ballot while implying that a “no” vote may mean the end of any future hydropower development on Kaua‘i.
“I don’t want to debate anymore whether or not they did the right thing with the Voters Guide,” Jay said. “This is an opportunity for KIUC to get it right by putting the kibosh on the first election. I’ve taken steps to involve members and make the board accountable.”
At KIUC’s monthly board meeting on Tuesday, he passed out lemons to each of the directors to “let them know that this is their opportunity to make lemonade.” He added that the same rains that go into hydropower also water the citrus trees he tends.
Jay’s petition says that by requiring members to return their ballots by July 8, “the earliest possible date,” the board is “severely limiting the time available for its member-owners to become informed.
“They then issued a Voters Guide and ballot to the general membership without including the petitioners in drafting the language of the ballot or allowing petitioners a ‘no’ statement in the Voters Guide to balance the Board’s ‘yes,’” the petition says.
“When this unfairness was brought to the Board’s attention, they refused to make changes.”
It states that through these actions, the board has “stacked the deck” in their own favor and created an “illegitimate election process that is a disservice to the general membership.”
To sign the petition is to “request the present election be terminated, and then re-done, in a fair, equitable and balanced fashion and with more time to better educate membership about the complex issue before the co-op.”
Board members have defended the election process and their decision to contract with FFP.
Jay said he has obtained 150 signatures so far. A total of 250 signatures are required to file a petition with KIUC.
“I have 20 working days since the resolution was posted in the minutes, so we’re still within that window,” he said.
“The signature petition is a fundamental system of checks and balances, an intrinsic democratic tool and in bylaws of co-ops for a reason. I don’t take this lightly.”
For more information, Jay may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.