Monday, February 4, 2008

Is YOUR Retirement program this good?

We knew it was the tip of the iceberg, but frankly, the more I learn about the PEC Board’s flagrant disregard for their responsible stewardship of our Co-op, the angrier I become. My modest sized home had an electric bill last month of over $400 – we’ve had unseasonably cold weather this year. When we retire, neither my husband nor I will have the same benefits of some board members of our local PEC.

Yesterday’s (02/03/08) Austin American Statesman revealed an … "emeritus" program that would provide lifetime pay and benefits after a director's active service on the board ends. The program was used to assist at least one former director, Charles Winters, who stayed on the Pedernales payroll after entering a nursing home in the late 1990s. Winters died in 2005. Family members say he suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a debilitating lung condition." The existance of the program was completely undisclosed to co-op members.

There have also been questions regarding another employee who left her job as Pedernales General Manager Bennie Fuelberg's assistant and moved to Louisiana two years ago. According to Fuelberg's testimony late last year in a lawsuit brought by Pedernales members, she also still collects full salary & benefits without providing any service to the co-op.

Staff members are eligible for a generous retirement package from Pedernales that includes a defined benefit plan and a 401(k) plan with a 5-to-1 COMPANY MATCH. According to the Statesman article: Charles Elson, professor at the John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware, said emeritus board members are rare in both the for-profit and nonprofit world, and are almost always honorific — without compensation. ‘To pay and get health insurance is highly unusual,’ he said. Greg Boudreaux, a retired executive of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association who consults on governance issues, said emeritus positions are usually granted in 'recognition for directors that have made a significant contribution to the co-op' but do not come with pay."

Last week, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst authorized a Senate study of Pedernales' lax oversight by its board of directors. The study and hearings will be conducted by the Senate Business and Commerce Committee, which Horseshoe Bay resident, Sen. Troy Fraser (R) heads.

In January, Pedernales Electric Co-op became the subject of a preliminary criminal investigation by the district attorney for the Hill Country area that includes Johnson City. SIC 'EM BOYS.

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