Petitioners question ‘invalid’ KIUC signatures

LIHU‘E — In a lengthy battle between the island’s utility cooperative and some of its members, the light switch continues to flip up and down.

Earlier this year Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative announced an agreement with Free Flow Power to explore hydroelectric development.

A petition signed by more than 300 co-op members generated a ballot question asking if the board’s decision should stand. On July 8, more than two-thirds of voting members affirmed the board’s action to hire FFP.

A second petition, organized by Kaua‘i resident Jonathan Jay, asked KIUC to recall the ballots for the first petition and redo the vote. He criticized the co-op for not providing its members with fair and balanced information for the vote.

Each petition must contain at least 250 signatures from co-op members. The second petition gathered 291 signatures. But KIUC said 106, or 36 percent, were invalid, so the petition was rejected.

In the latest turn of events, five island residents serving as “Representatives of KIUC Petitioners” challenged the co-op’s decision to deem the signatures invalid.

“Petitioners were surprised at the extremely high number of invalidated names reported,” said group representative Tek Nickerson in a letter mailed Monday to KIUC CEO David Bissell.

“They’re probably not members,” KIUC spokeswoman Shelley Paik said Wednesday when asked why some of the signatures were invalidated.

Nickerson said for members to “satisfactorily be assured that the verification process was handled in an independent and unbiased manner,” the group requested a copy of the report with KIUC’s findings reflecting how the verification process was conducted, who counted the petition names and if a third, independent party was involved.

The group also requested a copy of the petition with marks showing which signatures didn’t count, plus a reason for each invalidation.

“We see this as a reasonable expectation in a democratic process and essential in putting to rest any lingering doubt about discrepancies,” Nickerson said in the letter. “This would be a clear indication that the mutual interests and responsibilities are transpiring with clarity, transparency and accountability in our shared quest to build trust.”

Paik on Wednesday checked with Bissell’s secretary to see if KIUC had any response to RKP’s letter. Bissell’s secretary acknowledged receiving the letter, Paik said, but had been in meetings all day and had not had a chance to go through her mail before leaving work.

“She hasn’t opened it yet, so she doesn’t know what it says,” Paik said.

The group asked KIUC to provide answers by Monday.

The RKP members listed in the letter are Nickerson, Jay, Jose Bulatao, Ken Taylor and Scott Mijares.

• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.

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