In the February 2018 issue of Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News, just a few weeks before member-owner ballots were to be collected and counted at DEC's annual meeting, DEC General Manager James Hathaway used his column in the magazine to present three significant proposed bylaw changes.
He suggested all three of these changes were of "minor" importance — mere updates — and he indicated that both he and the entire board of directors supported their adoption. You can read Hathaway's column at the bottom of this page.
You'll note that none of the changes are presented as being the least bit problematic or controversial. However, all three proposed changes raised significant concerns among members who took time to investigate them further.
We found many aspects of these changes to be unwise and antithetical to the cooperative principles by which all rural electric cooperatives are supposed to be guided. We also found them unnecessary and undermining of members rights and local controls.
Uncertain whether DEC's leadership fully understood how the bylaw changes could play out, and wanting to understand what was motivating the introduction of these changes now, we reached out to both to James Hathaway, and to our board representatives. We made calls and wrote emails, but got no satisfactory answers.
We then arranged a meeting with Mr. Hathaway. During that hour-long meeting, we asked questions and shared our concerns. Mr. Hathaway did not seem open to considering our point of view, and did not seem to believe our point of view had any merit.
One member then carefully researched and painstakingly assembled a 40-page, annotated open letter detailing how the proposed bylaw changes could negatively affect the cooperative and its members. It included links to references from credible, respected sources, and it supplied more than 20 pages of reference materials documenting the basis for member concern.
The document was distributed to Mr. Hathaway and the entire board of directors. It was also posted online and made available at the public library. It was largely ignored by DEC's manager and board of directors. But it got a lot of attention of other concerned members of the cooperative.
At the annual meeting (which was disconcerting — you can read about it here), about a dozen members spoke out against the changes, all of which had already passed by mail-in ballots prior to any member discussion or debate. Many members felt they had been misled, and that the membership as a whole had been disserved. Some wanted to know how the vote could be done over.
It seemed evident at the meeting that many members of the DEC board did not fully understand the new bylaw language themselves. It also seemed clear that DEC leadership had either not done an adequate job researching the potentially negative implications of the changes, or that they had failed to put the co-op's members rights and best interests ahead of other priorities.
Following that meeting, a number of concerned members got together to advocate for all DEC members' rights and best interests. And that's how Move Dunn Energy Forward (MDEF) was formed.
Explore this website to discover all that has happened since then. Once you do, we think you'll understand why — having spent the last few months investigating how our cooperative currently operates — we are more concerned than ever.