OPALCO’s actions regarding board candidates as an ethics question | Letter

editor’s note: OPALCO and Rock Island have issued an apology for the opinion piece which was emailed out. You can read their press release at http://www.islandsweekly.com/news/376405201.html.

OPALCO’s board and management need to be held accountable by members throughout the service area for the way they have conducted themselves, highlighted by the way current board elections are designed and managed. A recent e-mail sent out on Rock Island letterhead by Rock Island’s Executive Vice-President to its active customer list strongly urged members to elect three candidates currently running for the OPALCO board of directors. Rock Island’s General Manager is also the General Manager of OPALCO and as OPALCO is the sole owner of Rock Island, an internet subsidiary, which was purchased by OPALCO coop member shareholder equity. The Rock Island purchase and OPALCO’s investments in fiber optics and wireless digital communication have had a substantial impact on OPALCO’s finances, and a key job of the new board will be working to straighten out the utility’s challenging financial situation. Rock Island is the recipient of a $7.5 million low-interest loan from OPALCO and Rock Island has exclusive usage of OPALCO’s middle mile fiber optics network.

Additionally, OPALCO has been hosting a series of Board Member Candidate Forums throughout the service area. Unfortunately, and I believe not by accident, these forums are scheduled much after election ballots have been made available. As many members vote as soon as they get a ballot, later forums favor incumbents. There has also not been earlier member exposure to the gerrymandering by-law amendment proposal that if passed would seriously marginalize coop members on islands with smaller populations. Also,the placement of the names of candidates on ballots could be alphabetical or a variety of other options that do not list incumbents first, giving them favoritism. A bias for incumbents does not honor the essence of cooperative elections.

Lastly, there are compelling financial and rate impact issues affecting all of us that are dependent on a board that interacts in a healthy and transparent way with members. Too few OPALCO members actively participate in this member owned cooperative in holding the board and management accountable, ethically and financially. I urge you to do so.

Michael Karp

OPALCO member