Some longtime members of the Yampa Valley Electric Association Cooperative are concerned and confused about a proposed bylaw change that, if approved by consumer members, would mean a significant change in how the bylaws of the YVEA are modified.
Currently, specific changes to the YVEA Bylaws must be approved by members during the annual voting process. Ballots for board member elections and bylaw changes are being mailed to all co-op members and were mailed out this week.
“Currently, the YVEA statutes limit changes to certain provisions of the YVEA statutes to members,” reads the YVEA letter that reached member households in May.
However, in this year’s ballot, the YVEA Board requested an amendment which “would permit all provisions of the Articles of Association to be amended by the YVEA Board, provided that such action by the Board is preceded by at least 30 days’ notice to membership.”
The proposed written notice “may be accomplished through publication in a newspaper, Colorado Country Life publication, or other forms of written notice to members,” the mailer noted. Proposed changes would also be posted on the YVEA website. More information is available at YVEA.com/YVEA-Bylaws.
“A person reading this amendment might interpret this to mean that the board will now have carte blanche to amend the bylaws,” said Norm Weaver, a longtime YVEA member and retired utility employee and engineer. . “Should members care? It is difficult to interpret the impact of the modification of the statutes.
In an approval email sent to members Thursday, June 2, requesting a “yes” vote, YVEA notes that proposed amendment 22-02 “will eliminate the need for a member-wide vote where bylaws currently require it and will instead allow our member-elected Board of Directors to make any necessary changes.By allowing the member-elected Board of Directors to make any recommended changes to the bylaws, we would no longer be required to assume the expenses of sending the statutes.
YVEA Board Vice-Chairman Ken Rogers said the benefits to members of the proposed Amendment 22-02 include “the ability to act on needed changes more quickly and hopefully , to save money.
YVEA’s May letter noted that the proposed bylaws amendment, if approved, “would also bring YVEA’s bylaws in line with those of the majority of Colorado’s electric utility co-ops, which already allow for the amendment of all the provisions of their statutes by their boards of directors”. That term “majority” was research by YVEA’s legal counsel, Davidson said.
Fraser resident Joe Smyth, energy consultant and co-op utility researcher, said a co-op board with the ability to change all bylaws is important because Colorado’s 22 electric co-ops are not overseen by an independent regulator as are the investors. owned by utilities such as Xcel Energy.
“I am interested in the explanation from the YVEA Board of Directors as to why in the past these types of regulations required a vote of the full members and why they believe it is not necessary now,” said Smith said.
Smyth noted that savings in funds in cooperative elections could be achieved by endorsing electronic voting, which has been permitted by Colorado law since 2021.
Smyth pointed to the “extraordinary variety” in the transparency of how Colorado’s various electric cooperatives operate.
Smyth said the most transparent co-op in the state is the La Plata Electric Association in Durango, which broadcasts all of its meetings live and posts full recordings of the meetings on its website. The Plata Electric Association also keeps detailed minutes of these meetings that explain the topics discussed, votes cast, and links to policies discussed or changed.
“A number of other co-ops in the state post meeting minutes, which is required by law, but they provide almost no details, and most co-ops don’t livestream board meetings. board,” Smyth said.
YVEA does not record or broadcast board meetings live. The ability to phone in to listen in to an YVEA board meeting was put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, but has since been discontinued, said YVEA public relations specialist Carly Davidson.
YVEA serves about 21,000 members in a 7,113 square mile territory with an annual budget of $57.7 million in 2021, according to Davidson.
Some long-time co-op members say the annual vote on bylaw changes serves as a form of checks and balances for members. During YVEA’s annual voting process in June 2019, the requested changes to the bylaws were rejected by members who voted no by a margin of 67 to 42, according to minutes on the YVEA’s website. YVEA.
Steamboat Springs resident Paul Hebert, a member of YVEA since 1985, said he believes approval of co-op bylaw changes should remain an annual member-approved process.
“The problem I see is that if the board has full power to change the bylaws, which could be quite significant, they could really do it without involving YVEA members,” Hebert said. “I think that goes beyond the authority they should have.”
Weaver, who ran unsuccessfully for the YVEA board in 2020, fears there is no clear process for members to understand and review bylaws changed by the board.
Liz McIntyre, vice-chair of the board of directors of Mountain Parks Electric in Granby, said some of the co-op’s bylaws can be changed by the board, but other changes must be approved by the members. Mountain Parks Electric board meetings are broadcast live and then posted on YouTube.
“Some of the most important articles dealing with elections and constituencies can only be edited by members,” McIntyre said.
Mona Neeley, director of communications at the Colorado Rural Electric Association, said CREA does not officially follow the policies of changing co-op bylaws in Colorado.
“I know that some bylaws can be changed by a vote of the board of directors and do not have to be submitted to the members. I don’t know how many are at this time,” Neeley noted.