Below is a response from co-op member and avid advocate for transparency, Arlene Boyd:
Beartooth Co-op Board needs to support open, transparent bylaw revision, now.
The “suspension” of the Beartooth Electric Cooperative Bylaw Committee is very disappointing. Without consulting members at-large or the members of the bylaw committee, the Beartooth Board of Trustees has stopped the committee’s work.
Bylaws are the contract between an organization and its members. Co-op bylaws define procedures for the organization and specify member rights and responsibilities.
Most of us do not understand the reported connection between a postcard sent out by the Stillwater and Carbon County Resource Councils and the board’s decision to suspend the bylaw committee. If the Beartooth Board objects to the councils’ postcard supporting mail-in elections they should take the matter up with the councils. There is no reason to shut down the bylaw committee, which represents Beartooth members, not the councils.
We have the highest electricity rates in Montana. Our wholesale supplier, Southern Montana Electric (Southern), a cooperative we established and finance, operates in bylaw-permitted secrecy. Southern spends enormous amounts of our money without informing us, seeking our input, or asking for our approval. The bylaws are much more important than an irrelevant spat about a postcard. They are even more important than mail-in balloting which is only one aspect of a fair election process.
It is time to thank the board and the committee members for their hard work and to insist that they reconvene and provide a transparent bylaw review process with open reporting and opportunity for member input. The bylaws need to be updated and revised with three objectives:
• To ensure that Beartooth has appropriate legal operating guidelines
• To provide strong support for transparent governance and democratic decision-making
• To require procedures for informing and involving members in all aspects of co-op activity.
Boards and committees can get caught up in controlling their process and forget what the process is supposed to do. Let’s not let that happen at Beartooth.