Co-op#039;s expenditures infuriate customers

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Residents in Highland Home and other rural communities became angered at last Tuesday night's annual meeting of the MonCre Telephone Cooperative when it was determined that the co-op's general manager, plant manager and members of the board of trustees had spent $160,000 on travel in a little over 10 months.

Treasurer Arthur McKnatt revealed the numbers to co-op member W.W. Sellers prior to the annual meeting. Sellers then organized the members of the co-op, who turned out in force on Tuesday at the Dunbar-Ramer School Auditorium. Over 700 people attended the meeting. The majority stood in shock as McKnatt read over the figures.

"It was total abuse of the faith the people had put in them," Sellers said.

The MonCre Telephone Cooperative is member-owned and located in Ramer. It is a phone and Internet co-op for approximately 3,500 citizens in Crenshaw, Montgomery, Bullock and Pike counties.

The co-op immediately voted to ask for a letter of resignation from General Manager Jerry McGee and Plant Manager Pete Confuscion. According to Sellers, reached by phone on Tuesday night, those resignations had been delivered.

Reached by phone on Monday, McKnatt stated that he couldn't comment on the issue at present.

"I'm not at liberty to discuss it at this time," McKnatt, who lives in Pine Level. "All I did at the meeting was put the figures out there and let the co-op decide for themselves."

According to Sellers, McKnatt was 'stonewalled' several times at the co-op's home office in Ramer when he requested travel records. After three trips to Ramer, he finally received those records on April 4.

Those travel records indicate a pattern of abuse, said Sellers. Of the $160,000 spent, $30,000 was on plane travel. One member reportedly stayed in a $900 per night hotel.

"They even took their wives on these trips and the board paid for it all," said Sellers.

McKnatt even accused McGee of using the co-op's credit card for personal transactions, including mattresses for his home.

Immediately after the meeting, McGee stated to WSFA:

"I don't think they understand the value of training and travel and keeping in touch with the industry," he said. "If anything that was improper, it was that we did it too much. But I don't think, there was no policy in place to guide me in what to do, so I was following past practice."

Attempts to reach McGee on Monday and Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Sellers said the board of trustees would move to replace McGee with an interim general manager until a permanent replacement could be found.