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Election fallout rattles co-op board

McCaw

By Jim Haug Herald staff writer

The election for the La Plata Electric Association board of directors is over, but emotions are still raw over a race in which renewable-energy advocates defeated two of the four incumbents up for re-election.

At the board meeting Wednesday, the first since the election, the co-op was criticized for running get-out-the vote messages only on conservative talk radio, prompting calls for an independent monitor to supervise future board elections and increase transparency.

KSUT, a local National Public Radio affiliate, contradicted an opinion by LPEA CEO Greg Munro that rules by the Federal Communications Commission would have prohibited the station from carrying its get-out-the vote messages as part of LPEA’s regular sponsorship.

“I don’t think it would have been a problem,” said Bruce Campbell, the station’s director of development, in an interview with The Durango Herald. He said KSUT regularly carries get-out-the-vote messages for the League of Women Voters.

Campbell also denied assertions made by LPEA Director Pam Patton that LPEA staff had corrected the oversight and had the NPR station run a get-out-the-vote message as part of its sponsorship.

Campbell said LPEA’s script asking consumers to save energy was never changed during the election season.

Harry Riegle, an LPEA critic, thinks Patton might have been confused because he knew his wife and others sent KSUT public-service announcements to encourage voting.

Patton had criticized Riegle for creating a false impression that LPEA would not release a cost-of-service study. Patton and LPEA President Jerry McCaw said the board was set to vote twice about releasing the information with some names redacted, but Riegle had withdrawn his requests.

“I actually think you did it deliberately,” Patton said during the meeting. “You ask for these things, then when we get ready to give it to you, you withdraw (your request).”

She said this resulted in LPEA being “slammed” during the election that it was not transparent.

But Riegle, chairman of the Safe Energy Committee, which is not affiliated with LPEA, said the letters he got from Munro and LPEA’s lawyer indicated that LPEA was never going to release the information.

“The only thing I got in communication was push-back,” Riegle told board members.

Riegle said he did not want to be confrontational and was trying to accommodate the board.

In the election, renewable-energy candidate Britt Bassett defeated incumbent Bobby Lieb for District 3, which is the city of Durango, and renewable-energy candidate Heather Erb beat incumbent Herb Brodsky for District 4, northern and eastern La Plata County.

McCaw won re-election to District 2, southern and western La Plata County, beating renewable-energy candidate Bruce Baizel. Incumbent Bob Formwalt beat challenger Kirsten Skeehan to keep his District 1 seat, Archuleta County.

In the board election of officers, held after a 30-minute executive session, the 12-member board re-elected McCaw as president, Tom Compton as vice president, Patton as secretary and Joe Wheeling as treasurer.

jhaug@durangoherald.com

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