Letters for Thursday, August 18, 2011

Public input

Public input

After reading the two letters from Alfred Laureta on July 23 and Aug. 4, and hearing his remarks at the Second Quarterly KIUC meeting Aug. 11, with all due respect to the judge, I wonder why he is not aware of or addressing the real issues that are upsetting more members of the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative than just the signatories on either of the two petitions?

For starters, please be reminded that many electricity rate payers are renters and could not cast their vote on the hydro power issue, as passionate as they may be, and many KIUC members were off island on school break vacations and did not even receive a ballot until it was too late to vote or to sign the second petition. And factor in that only the person named on the KIUC account can cast a vote or sign a petition, not a spouse if not listed. Has KIUC successfully educated its members and the public of this information?

Secondly, did KIUC members authorize the Board of Directors to spend thousands of members’ dollars to advertise the Board’s “Yes” position on the ballot? The exact amount is not even available to Board members. Would it not have been better, more democratic and pono for KIUC to send out a ballot that would have given equal space for a full explanation of a “no” vote? Are they not guilty of “electioneering” on the ballot, even though their current Policy No. 23 deals only with candidates rather than issues on a ballot sent out to members?

The most astute Board members currently serving on the Board understand that this policy must be changed immediately as some are expecting more member petitions to be forthcoming that may qualify for additional voting by the membership. In the future, electioneering can not be permitted as one-sided propaganda inserted within the ballot.

Also does the judge, a past board member, have any idea how unacceptable it is for members to be told by KIUC CEO David Bissell that “… they made some mistakes on the ballot issue”? Was management not aware, with such a complicated issue having several possible solutions, that they could have put out a ballot that gave clearer explanations for a well educated vote? By the time the hydro power issue came before the KIUC Board of Directors and the membership, I would expect Mr. Bissell, having served as temporary and appointed CEO since June 2010, to have “come up to speed” on co-op principles.   

One must agree that most petitioners were objecting to Free Flow Power being awarded the contract with absolutely no member input, not necessarily that they were against hydro power. This is particularly relevant after the very well researched facts presented by my husband Fred Dente in his TGI letter of June 13. The wording in the “No” category in the four-page pamphlet sent to every voter that … “A likely end to member-owned hydro development on Kaua‘i” with a “…more than $325,000 contractual obligations will be due to FFP” is typically a fear tactic that is used much too often in my opinion by KIUC management to cover their mistakes.

In an effort to eliminate future debacles in the KIUC voting process, I suggest that the members insist that “preferential voting” be used in any future voting opportunities at KIUC when there could be more than two choices for an issue. This method is best described in the rules that KIUC uses according to their bylaws, Robert’s Rules of Order. I recommend the 10th edition, Newly revised by Robert 3rd, Evans, Honemann and Balch, used by more professional organizations than any other authority. If major issues are to come before the Board in the future, such as voting whether to allow FFP to continue with their recommendations for hydro power on Kaua‘i, then the membership must certainly be involved in this and any other important issues that affect the well being of all residents of Kaua‘i, not just KIUC members.  To achieve this end, a change in the bylaws must occur. I suggest that the bylaws be changed to accommodate “preferential voting” in the next election cycle.

Judge Laureta and some current Board members, may I remind you and all KIUC members that we are members of a Cooperative. Power is vested in the membership, not in the leadership. Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions. Unfortunately, some members who attended the July 26 KIUC monthly Board meeting to express their ideas, questions and suggestions were shut down by the Chair, Phil Tacbian and advisory council David Proudfoot on the basis of: If an item is not on the agenda, there can be no public input of any kind at the meeting according to KIUC policies.

However, Robert’s Rules allows for suspension of the rules by a two thirds vote of the Board. With such a long standing contentious issue before the community, one would expect that the Board would have acted in a more accommodating and transparent manner, welcoming member input. This attitude is reflected in Board Policy No.12, Code of Ethics. There is no doubt in this writer’s opinion that the concept of public trust is being violated and disrespected by some KIUC officials often with a very condescending attitude . As said by the Dalai Lama “Politics devoid of ethics does not further human welfare.”

 I suggest that members and interested community citizens attend KIUC monthly meetings, and “speak up” as one audience member suggested at the August 11 meeting. But, please be reminded, if the subject that you wish to speak about is NOT on the agenda, you will not be allowed to speak. Contact a Board member to ask for your issue to be included in the agenda. Written testimony can be presented according to Chair Tacbian.

The Board’s next meeting is Aug. 30, 1:30 p.m., in the KIUC Board Room. And, thanks to the Members’ Relations Committee, public input may now be presented twice at the beginning and end of open session Board meetings.


Marj Dente, Waipouli Ahupua‘a


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