Reforms needed at Rappahannock Electric Cooperative

John Levasseur, Michael Murphy, Seth Heald

We recently announced a new campaign to bring needed reforms to Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, the large electric utility that serves Rappahannock County. An electric cooperative is owned by its customers. If you get your power from REC then you, like us, are a member-owner of REC. That means you have a right to be kept informed of your co-op’s affairs and have a say in how your co-op is run.

This is especially important because REC members are supposed to elect the co-op’s board of directors, and the board’s decisions affect our pocketbooks. REC’s recent 40 percent increase in customer “access” fees has increased monthly bills for all REC members’ homes and significantly reallocated how REC collects revenues from different customers. Yet it was was decided in a closed board meeting with little if any advance co-op-member input and review. We believe that significant decisions like these should be made in the open, so all REC members can see how their board functions, and with full member input and oversight. Democracy is, after all, the core principle of the cooperative form of business ownership, and a democracy can’t function without transparency.

Unfortunately, REC has strayed from its original fair and democratic governance. The result, we believe, is a disengaged board of directors that sees itself answering to the co-op’s management rather than to the co-op’s member-owners. Worse yet, the board and management work together to make it hard for REC members to learn about how their co-op is really run. The board implements policies in virtual secrecy, sets its own pay in secret, effectively controls board-election outcomes in secret, and even threatens co-op members who seek basic information about their co-op with possible litigation and monetary fines.

The three of us are REC members with varying views and from different walks of life. We got to know each other out of our concerns over REC’s recent steps to limit democratic governance and block transparency. Working with other concerned members we’ve established the Repower REC campaign to bring back democratic control and transparency to our electric co-op.

This won’t be easy. We’re dealing with an entrenched REC board that is all too comfortable with its generous compensation and the lack of transparency that frustrates genuine member oversight of the board. That’s why REC’s board has resisted even modest efforts to improve transparency.

It’s time for REC members to take back control of their cooperative. We invite you to visit our website at RepowerREC.com to learn about our campaign and join us as we work with our fellow REC member-owners to restore real democracy to our electric co-op.

In addition, Repower REC is holding a community forum at the Little Washington Theatre on Thursday, May 24 at 7 p.m., to allow community members to learn more about the campaign and to ask questions.

John Levasseur, Brigadier General U. S. Army (retired) who lives in Fredericksburg, served on REC’s board of directors from 2014 to 2017. As an Army reservist he commanded combat and logistical units at all levels. He is retired from AT&T. where he managed a telephone customer care center and served as a manager for customer billing.

Michael Murphy, who lives in Boston, is a retired educator with over 40 years of K-12 and collegiate teaching and leadership experience. He holds a doctorate in Vocational Administration from the University of Georgia, with additional credentialing in Executive Leadership from Seattle Pacific University.

Seth Heald, who lives in Rixeyville, is a retired lawyer who worked for 34 years at the U.S. Department of Justice. He also has a Master of Science degree in Energy Policy and Climate.

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