SIKESTON -- Several issues were addressed at last night's annual meeting of the SEMO Electric Cooperative. While answers were provided to some speakers, many questions went unanswered, leaving issues for the Board of Directors to address in the future.
Questions were answered concerning salaries, meter readers, cost of line extensions and other problems. However, the complaints zeroed in on expenses being incurred by the Board. Several co-op members voiced their opinions.
Virginia McKenzie of Diehlstadt said: "I'd like to know if you knew you were in the red in '03, then why in the heck did you spend so much on hotels? What happened to the Days Inn?"
Rick Faulkner, Board President, answered: "We try to be as close to meetings as possible." He explained that most of these meetings are held in large cities, so it is helpful if the hotel is within walking distance of where the meetings are being held. Not only is this more convenient, he also commented that it reduced transportation costs.
"Our bills are high enough as it is. I think you all should consider us out here," McKenzie replied.
Faulkner replied: "The board will take your concerns into consideration."
Questions were also raised concerning expenses incurred by board members from January to April 2004. These detailed sheets were passed out before the meeting by an unknown party.
SEMO Co-op General Manager Reuben Jeane explained that the computer system only picks up the first memo line for expenses. Therefore, one amount may denote mileage, but include other expenses.
"When information is passed out that is misinformation, it distorts the issue," Jeane said. "If not accurately explained, it becomes very distorted."
Jeane proceeded to ask: "Where did you get that information?"
A member shouted out, "Don't we have the right to know?" referring to the amounts being spent by the Board.
Another concerned member made a motion to reduce rates the Board of Directors were being paid to attend meetings. This motion was seconded by the membership and passed on to the Board. The motion is an item of business that the Board has to act on according to the bylaws and will review in the future.
Sheila Perry, superintendent of schools in Bloomfield, rounded out the comments. "As a superintendent of schools, it is my responsibility to ensure we are financially sound. I would never blame my workers, teachers and staff for not being able to be prepared for the future," she said.
Perry then made a motion for an audit, which received applause of several seconds. She then asked for a second to her motion and conducted a vote. Perry was then told that she was "out of order, and could not come in and take over the meeting."
Perry walked away very upset, with questions still unanswered.
Faulkner was then quick to end the business session. Many were opposed, and a vote was needed. It was a close margin, but the "ayes" prevailed.
Members had heated opinions after the meeting. "They railroaded her (Sheila). It was horrible," member Kim Bowling said.
"I thought it was a railroad job," Rob Bennet agreed.
"The way I was treated, that just adds fuel to the flame," Perry said. "I was warned that they knew I was coming and would cut me off no matter what I said. What I said was written by a corporate lawyer. I just want to know why they are so secretive."
Jeane said after the meeting the Board was receptive to the complaints.
"The Board has listened to the complaints of the members and will be addressing the questions raised at the annual meeting in the near future and will notify membership of changes being made," Jeane said.