Cobb EMC Customers Foot Bill for CEO's Defense
Alleged board corruption may negatively affect wholesale power costs, which should concern Cobb EMC members.
Although Dwight Brown, the Cobb EMC president and CEO, faces conspiracy and racketeering charges brought against him in a 31-count indictment by Cobb County District Attorney Pat Head, the board made an agreement that should any of them have legal troubles, Cobb EMC would pick up the tab.
Brown is charged with stealing from the electric co-op. The case will be costly for members, with former Gov. Roy Barnes and a team of lawyers defending Brown. Meanwhile, the organization also has a case before the Georgia Supreme Court.
Cobb EMC’s response to the Brown case is posted at https://www.cobbemc.com/en/About-Cobb-EMC/News-and-Press/NewsItems/Cobb-EMC-Questions-and-Answers.aspx.
Tom Barksdale is the chairman of Cobb Alliance for Smart Energy, a volunteer organization with a mission to reform the Cobb EMC board by changing its composition. He said Cobb EMC has not held board elections for more than three years.
Barksdale said a meeting to discuss a myriad of issues facing Cobb EMC members will take place at the Rib Ranch on Canton Road on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.
"Part of the problem is people can be discontented, but they really don't understand the details or their equity in the process. We're trying to mobilize members to be ready to vote," he said.
Cobb EMC did not respond to inquiries for this article.
Cobb EMC Board of Directors candidate David Lombrozo of East Cobb hopes to represent Area 4, a seat now held by Johnny Gresham. Lombrozo said that as a board member he would look out for the 196,000 members who own the nonprofit energy co-op.
“It’s more than intellectual curiosity but attitude that makes me qualified to sit on the board. We're trying to get rid of the present board because they don't seem to have the long-term members’ needs in mind," Lombrozo said.
"This is certainly not a political party reformation, but this is a fight for a cooperative currently run by people who have been indicted or have conspired with people who have been indicted,” he said. “They have made decisions that the courts and the members have forced them to reverse. Clearly, they are not making decisions well.”
Electric membership corporations, or EMCs, were created in the 1930s to provide electricity to rural areas. Some, like Cobb EMC, have become huge corporations, owning power plants, dams, wires and distribution lines. Members are users and bond and equity holders. Unlike many corporations, EMCs do not pay stock dividends to outsiders.
Barksdale said all 10 Cobb EMC board members have served beyond their normal tenure. "Who puts up with that in a democratic society?"
Lombrozo added: “Members need to be concerned because they own their EMC. When they buy their house, they are required by Georgia law to buy electricity from that EMC. That will not change.”
He said members should look past the low electrical rate on their bills and focus on their wholesale power adjustment charge. "At a time when energy prices have been falling, through all of 2009-2010, our adjustments have been going through the roof. It's disingenuous, misleading and deceiving to tell members we have low costs, and we are paying far too much for electricity."
One major issue confronting the board is the construction of a coal-fired power plant in middle Georgia, the $2 billion-plus Plant Washington.
According to Lombrozo, Cobb EMC is a member of Oglethorpe Power, which backed out of building coal-fired power plants, but Cobb EMC is going forward with the plant.
"When we look at the indictments and the settlements of the civil suits, clearly it doesn't pass the smell test. We may need to revisit the coal-fired power plant decision,” Lombrozo said.