02/24/2019: "OPALCO Strikes Lewis From Ballot"
Dwight Lewis of Lopez Island was able to join OPALCO’s selected candidates for a Board position by obtaining over 450 signatures from cooperative members to be placed on the ballot, but after OPALCO “called into question the petitioner’s ability to put aside his personal agenda for the good of the Cooperative,” and stating -without so far producing any evidence- they have “documented actions over the past year” that allow OPALCO to remove Lewis as a candidate for the board.
As for an agenda, Lewis has made clear what his agenda is, stating on his webpage:
• Return the focus of our cooperative's original and primary purpose of providing the most efficient service at the most competitive cost through sound business principles and conservative management practices.
• Encourage the Board to engage a forensic auditing firm to analyze and report their findings regarding the financial transactions for the last three years, the "summary" of said reports to be mailed to all member owners of the cooperative.
• Promote an attitude of trust and transparency by the Board towards the Member/owners of the cooperative by rescinding the requirements for a "Confidentiality Agreement" from and board member or the management staff.
He has also stated his concern that OPALCO is “$64,000,000 in debt,” and the OPALCO & Rock Island general manger is “taking in $360,000.00 in salary and benefits.”
With respect to his opposition to management staff being required to sign a “Confidentiality Agreement,” that turns out to be the stated reason that, thus far, OPALCO will not release information validating their charges and action against Lewis. In a PRESS RELEASE (pdf 398\k file) they state that “OPALCO has requested a release of confidential information from Mr. Lewis and his attorney. Until a release is signed, the specific information is considered by OPALCO to be confidential to protect the privacy of the individual.”
Lewis is not going gently into the night on this, and has retained Attorney Diana G. Hancock to represent him. Reached by phone, Hancock told The Island Guardian she was unable to cite charges made against Lewis until OPALCO releases the information.
The timing by OPALCO has also raised questions by Lewis and his supporters, noting that in February when Lewis and the other candidates filed their disclosure statements for the election, no questions were raised, and then a couple of weeks later two new qualifications were sent out as an umbrella catch-all that would disqualify a candidate if they have ever been a “party in a mediating, arbitration, lawsuit, unsuccessful Member Service Policy 9 rulings, or any other legal action against or by the Cooperative or a subsidiary or affiliate of the Cooperative.”
Policy 9 state “Any member who feels they were not accorded fair treatment may request a review,” and then sets out the process to be followed.
Lewis is arguing that as a point of law a violation of OPALCO’s “policy 9” would in any case be a retroactive use of it, and would not apply to any alleged past actions that OPALCO may cite as disqualifying Lewis.
According to the OPALCO press release, the “issues that led to the Policy 9 hearing were of a nature that call into serious question the petitioner’s [i.e. Lewis] ability to put aside his personal agenda.”
But Hancock argues Lewis has never been involved in a “mediation, arbitration or lawsuit involving OPALCO, “ or any other legal action against OPALCO, and he has not had an unsuccessful ruling under Policy 9.
In just a few days the first of the “successful candidates” will start showing up at forums for the upcoming election. Lewis will not be one of them, but he and his supporters may be in the audience.