At the regular meeting of OPALCO’s Board on Lopez Island yesterday, General Manager Foster Hildreth apologized to the six candidates running for board positions and the membership as a whole for the inappropriate campaign endorsement sent by Rock Island Communications last week. After much discussion among the board and the more than 15 co-op members present, the Board passed a motion to stay the course on the April 30th board election and annual meeting and committed to establishing a clear policy on election neutrality for all employees, restricting campaign activities.
The two incumbent candidates recused themselves from voting on the motion. Staff presented an estimate of the costs to reschedule the election – approximately $50,000 – and discussed the logistical challenges. Board members and co-op members in attendance shared their opinions, raised questions and aired out grievances regarding the chain of events and OPALCO’s current election processes.
At the end of the discussion, all but one of the candidates agreed that it is not in the best interest of the Co-op to redo the election.
Hildreth thanked the Board, the members in attendance and especially the six candidates for their civility, respectful discourse and kindness in addressing a difficult topic. “This Co-op is very close to my heart,” he began. “I take it very seriously and assure you that this will not happen again.”
Over the next several months, the Board will review the entire board election process and activities with new scrutiny, promising to solicit member input. The questions that came up at today’s meeting will be examined, such as: How does the nominating process work? Should OPALCO hold candidate forums? How should incumbents be listed on the ballot? Should the timing of candidate forums be changed?
Board Vice President Vince Dauciunas, who led the discussion, assured those present, “This will be a thoughtful process that can’t be rushed. We will report our progress at regular Board meetings, post information on our website and plan to have new policies in place by the end of the year.”