Time for Co-op, members to start anew

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 20, 2005

It's been nearly 20 months since three of Pioneer Electric Cooperative's approximately 13,500 members filed suit against the member-owned cooperative citing gross mismanagement of the cooperative by its management and mishandling of the cooperative's funds and assets.

While a final settlement has not yet been approved by the court, both sides have agreed to end the litigation that has cost the cooperative $1.4 million in attorneys' fees.

As part of the settlement neither side is admitting they were wrong in either filing the complaint or defending their actions, but while the process has been arduous, complicated and expensive, it's on the verge of being over and that is a step in the right direction.

While the long-term effects of the litigation have yet to play out in regards to services, rates and the future of the rural cooperative that serves Butler, Crenshaw, Lowndes and Wilcox counties, it's clear to us that both parties need to find some common ground, outside of the settlement agreement, and work together to find ways of strengthening the cooperative's relationship with its membership and the membership with the cooperative.

The bottom line to us is that the management of the cooperative cannot operate a member-owned business without input from the membership, and if attendance at PEC's recent annual meeting is an indicator, both parties have a long way to go to reach much needed common ground.

The past is the past, and we can't change it, but we can change the future and we encourage both the cooperative and its membership to put the past behind you and make the best of what the future holds, which will be a challenge considering what is expected to be the most expensive utility cost winter ever.