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LPEA candidate Purser ‘does not have right to slander, make aspersions’

First, a disclaimer: I am an LPEA director representing District 3, which includes the city of Durango. This is my personal opinion; it does not reflect the opinion of other LPEA board members or of LPEA (See LPEA Policy 105(II)).

John Purser, a board candidate for LPEA’s District 4, has the right to state his opinions regarding the LPEA board of directors based on facts. He does not have the right to slander or make aspersions about anyone.

Mr. Purser, blatantly lies in his candidate statement.

1) He writes that LPEA has entered into “contracts worth hundreds of millions without member review.” False: The only agreement LPEA holds worth millions of dollars is the 50-year contract the co-op signed years ago with Tri-State, LPEA’s power supplier. The contract has a long and controversial history. Currently, LPEA is working with Tri-State and on several other fronts, to exit or change the terms of that contract in order to provide clean, reliable power to co-op members. Those efforts have been well-publicized.

2) Mr. Purser overtly accuses LPEA Board Chairman John Witchel of corruption. He writes “what’s good for (Witchel) may not be good for LPEA members.” Mr. Witchel’s company, a solar solar energy firm, does not work in Colorado and has never done work for LPEA. He has always been completely transparent about where the business operates. Mr. Witchel is extremely knowledgeable about electric power, exactly the type of expertise needed for a rural co-op engaged in a rapidly changing industry. His company employs about a dozen people in Durango and rents 2,500-square-feet of office space downtown, thus contributing to the local economy. And one more fact: Mr. Witchel contributes the stipend he receives as a director to LPEA’s charitable Round-up Foundation.

3) Mr. Purser writes that “LPEA board meetings are literally run from the offices” of Witchel’s company. False: When board meetings are on Zoom, they are run from LPEA’s offices. Board members sign on from convenient locations – just as hundreds of millions of people have done since the start of the COVID epidemic.

4) Another falsity: “Our board has been rife with special interests, and conflicts of interest, for several years.” A conflict of interest implies that I or others are making money illegally or gaining some type of undue influence directly for serving on the board. Nothing could be further from the truth. Other than by innuendo, Purser offers no proof – and he can’t because there is none. He also claims “poor governance,” but offers no explanation what that means.

5) Lies continue: “The purchasing processes of LPEA would not be allowed for city, county, state or federal agencies.” LPEA is not a government agency. It is a not-for-profit entity that operates in a competitive environment. LPEA’s purchasing follows the strict rules detailed in our policies, by-laws and management directives. Members should be happy that the co-op spends money in the most efficient manner to assure that the lights stay on 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Mr. Purser goes on to say that the current board doesn’t care about its members. Absolutely false: The board works diligently on budgets and policies, and constantly encourages LPEA’s stellar employees to provide creative solutions that ensure the co-op provides the best possible service to our members. In fact, electric co-ops from around the state and the country continually contact LPEA to learn about the innovations being implemented by co-op employees.

I urge members in District 4 not to fall for Mr. Purser’s hysterical and untruthful claims.

Joe Lewandowski is a longtime resident of Durango.