Bill Shearer, three others retire from SKRECC Board

Posted September 19, 2012 at 1:50 pm

“I’ve had a good long run – 36 years, but under the current situation, I felt I could no longer serve,” William J. “Bill” Shearer told the Clinton County News Monday morning regarding his retirement from the South Kentucky RECC Board of Directors following a meeting of that board last week.

Shearer, who has served in virtually every capacity on the board during those 36 years, including past stretches as board chairman, was one of four board members who tendered letters of retirement at the close of the board’s regular meeting last Thursday, September 13.

Representing Clinton County for the past 36 years, Shearer’s retirement announcement from the South Kentucky RECC board of directors was somewhat of a surprise to local members of the electric co-op.

Shearer has been a long-time business owner in Albany, as well as a long-time farmer. His business, Clinton Jewelers, has been a fixture on the Albany Square for several decades.

Three additional members of the board of directors, including current board chairman Richard G. Stephens of McCreary County, vice-chairman Charles Gore of Russell County and John T. Pruitt of Pulaski County, also announced their retirement at the same time Thursday.

According to a press release issued immediately following the Thursday night meeting, the letters of retirement were accepted by the remaining members of the board.

Stephens had also served on the board for 36 years, with Gore serving for 31 years and Pruitt for the past 10 years. Stephens had been the board chairman for the past 12 years.

“All four of these board members have invested a great deal of time over the years for the members of South Kentucky RECC. We appreciate all the time and effort that they gave, and we wish them all the best for their future,” South Kentucky RECC Chief Executive Officer Allen Anderson said in Thursday night’s press release.

Anderson said that the co-op board will now begin the task of finding new board members and moving the co-op forward.

Some controversy has been reported within South Kentucky RECC between some members of the board of directors and Anderson during the past weeks.

“There has been some controversy, but I’m not going to get into that,” Shearer told the Clinton County News Monday.

According to some published reports, Anderson was chastised by some members of the board when some SKRECC employees had become actively involved in an election of board members held earlier this summer.

Anderson noted that he had instructed employees not to be involved in board elections on company time, but since many of the employees were also members of the Co-op, he felt they had the right to be involved in the election process of board members.

Following the election, several employees gathered at a meeting of the board in August, apparently in support of Anderson when it was believed that his job might be in jeopardy.

No action regarding Anderson’s position as Chief Executive Officer was taken at the meeting.

Anderson has been with South Kentucky RECC for some 34 years and has served as the Co-ops’s CEO for 10 years.

The Clinton County News did obtain a copy of a three page “Statement from Retiring Directors” concerning the actions of the board members last week, a copy of which had also been submitted to the Kentucky Public Service Commission and had been signed by the four retiring members of the board.

“Due to various events and circumstances, it has become apparent that our values and visions for the business do not coincide with others, to such an extent that we can no longer be effective in discharging our fiduciary duties as Directors,” the statement notes.

That statement goes on to state that through the current economic downturn, the board had not immediately approved budgets that had been proposed by SKRECC management, instead asking for cost holds or reductions “and encouraging such cost savings as contract workers to perform certain functions.”

The statement went on to say that apparently the concept of hiring contract workers in place of adding additional full time employees to the roles, had “apparently not always been well received by the Cooperative employees.”

As for the issue of the recent election of board members and the accusations of cooperative employees being actively involved in the election process, the statement notes that it was the opinion of the four retiring board members that what transgressed during the election process had not been a fair process.

“An employee was found to have been actively campaigning on Cooperative time. Internal Cooperative information was apparently used, and assisted opposition candidates in preparing and obtaining petition signatures,” the statement reads. “Apparently employees were observed, on company time, placing and or passing cards of Director candidates. It is employees using members’ resources and time with which we disagree.”

The statement went on to note that they felt the Management knew or should have known of the alleged campaign action, but the action was not appropriately managed.

The statement also claims that due to “disclosure of confidential discussions,” the assumption was made that the board was replacing Anderson, and as a result of those assumptions, the employees became actively involved in attempting to save the CEO’s job, including making direct contact with board members through direct calls and letters, but also influencing business relationships of the board members to apply pressure to influence a favorable decision toward Anderson.

The statement also claimed that the process involving the CEO and his position included veiled threats to individuals and/or their families.

“The Cooperative, which was formed and founded upon Cooperative Principals, including the principle of cooperation, and a unity of purposes, has, in our opinion, become an entity which no longer works that way,” the statement reads, going on to a concluding statement of “we leave wishing the Cooperative and its members the best.”

The statement from the retiring directors also addressed a host of other issues that have been at the heart of several controversial accusations within the organization for the past several months.

In the press release issued after Thursday night’s meeting, Anderson said the co-op and its members appreciate the years of service that these men gave to the co-op.

“All four of these board members have invested a great deal of time over the years for the members of South Kentucky RECC. We appreciate all the time and effort that they gave, and we wish them all the best for their future.”
Anderson said that the co-op board will now begin the task of finding new board members and moving the co-op forward.

“According to South Kentucky RECC by-laws, vacancies to the board need to be filled within a reasonable time, and the remaining directors will begin the process, following board policy, to find the best people possible for the positions,”Anderson said. “In the past, in similar situations, community leaders have been engaged in this process, and I feel that they will be again.”

The new board members that are seated at the end of this process will fulfill the term of the member they are replacing.

“In addition to filling the remainder of the terms of the seats vacated, we have heard a great number of concerns from our members, and we are going to begin the process of addressing these concerns,” Anderson said. “Steps have already been taken to meet with representatives from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, as well as to glean information from cooperatives across the state. We want to do everything we can to make South Kentucky RECC the best possible co-op it can be for our members.”

Anderson said change will not happen overnight, but he feels confident that change will be positive and the co-op will be able to get back to its true focus of providing reliable, competitively-priced electricity, and more importantly, improving the quality of life in the communities that SKRECC serves.

Anderson noted he wanted to assure South Kentucky RECC members that business will continue as seamlessly as possible during this transition period. He added that the process of filling the vacancies on the board will be the first order of business.

“Our goal, as always, is to put our members first. This is their cooperative – they own it,” Anderson said. “We want to do what is best for them, while continuing to provide the greatest service we can.”

In addition to the four board members who retired last week, there are three additional board members who remain in place.