Texas State Rep. Patrick Rose rails against PEC Board decisions, lack of transparency

Logo for PEC

Rep. Patrick Rose this morning had an opinion piece printed regarding transparency reforms at the  Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC) , echoing similar criticism from the Austin American Statesman last week.  I’m not saying I agree with every word Rep. Rose wrote here in this morning’s San Marcos Local News, but this shows that this will likely be an issue in the upcoming Legislative Session.  As a bit of history, Rep. Rose (D-Dripping Springs) and Senator Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay), both of whom are members of the co-op, tried to pass a bill to increase transparency at PEC last session, but that ultimately failed when, as with so many other issues, it got killed by Voter ID.

As an aside and for full transparency’s (ha!) sake, Rep. Rose is also my State Representative and I have to give him a big hat tip for the work he has done in working to reform the PEC, as that work directly affects the electric bills my family and neighbors pay every month.

District 45 State Representative

Rep. Patrick Rose by the river

Our three-county district is served entirely by electric co-ops and municipally owned systems. I believe that public power has served our area well and kept costs lower than other energy providers across the state. As we continue our efforts to protect and grow jobs in our region, energy affordability is key. This is one of the many reasons why I am committed to a strong and transparent Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC).

On Monday, Senator Troy Fraser (R-Marble Falls) and I spoke at the August meeting of the PEC board of directors. I appreciate every opportunity to meet with the board and co-op members about our reform efforts.

My remarks were focused on my strong disapproval of the board’s latest mistake that cost co-op members $1 million, firing its general manager days before the election of two new board members. In June, PEC seated its first ever 100 percent democratically elected board. This decision could have and should have waited until the new board members, duly elected by the members, were sworn in.

The two outgoing directors were part of the legacy board that allowed for and participated in the mismanagement and corruption at PEC that was brought to light over the last few years. They should not have been part of any decision that impacts the future of PEC. At the meeting, I repeatedly asked Larry Landaker, PEC’s board president, to explain why he and two other board members joined forces with the last two legacy members. He could not answer the question, and furthermore, he admitted that the board did not have cause for the firing, thus costing co-op members $1 million.

These actions are unacceptable and show the irresponsibility and lack of transparency that justify legislation. What co-op members can count on, regardless of the makeup of the PEC board or who is general manager, is that Sen. Fraser and I are committed to transparency and openness at our cooperative. The legislature will reconvene in January and we will proceed with our effort to statutorily protect members’ rights.

At the annual members’ meeting this summer, co-op members sent a message that they want an open and transparent PEC by adopting a members bill of rights that included positive open records and open meetings requirements. I believe that putting those protections in state law, as well as other critical components included in our legislation, like single-member districts and numerous open governance requirements, is critical.

To join our efforts and for more information about these reforms,  please contact me at your capitol office at (512) 463-0647, by email at [email protected], or by mail at P.O. Box 2910, Austin, TX, 78768. Our team is ready to assist you.

If you’ve followed Public Citizen for a while, you’ve hopefully known that we have been at the forefront of the co-op reform movement and specifically the efforts to reform Pedernales. We need to remember that, as member-owners, this is “MY ENERGY COOP“.  This might be a new concept, so let me elaborate: as a cooperative, Pedernales, Bluebonnet, CoServe, South Texas Electric Coop (STEC) and so forth are owned by the people who use their services. When I pay my electric bill every month, it’s because it is, in a very real sense, because I have an ownership stake– it is my electric coop.

Giving member-owners the ability to vote on who the board members are in regular, free and fair elections to means that they represent us and our interests. They need to hear from us and what we feel.
The problem is, even when reformers take the helm, it is often hard to implement reform. One person’s “lack of transparency” is someone else’s “need to move quickly for expediency.” And here we have the rub at the PEC today: reform-minded board members wanted to remove Garza because he wasn’t implementing reforms quickly enough for their taste.  And while some wanted Garza gone a year previous, many saw this move as surprising, abrupt and not transparent.  This included the Austin-American Statesman, who called it a “surprise move” and Garza himself calling it a “complete surprise.”
Surprise or not, the political perception was that board members were out of control, and this has translated into actions taken by Rep. Rose and Sen. Fraser.
Public Citizen will be working on co-op reform as one of our top issues in this coming Legislative session, hopefully making the concept of “My Energy Coop” become universal throughout Texas.


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