Ratepayers benefit if CMEEC passes bylaw reforms

I write to follow-up on the article published on July 29 − "Proposed change to utility cooperative's bylaws could limit future legal liability" − which described several of the revisions I proposed to the corporate bylaws of the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative. The aim of those revisions is saving money for the ratepayers of CMEEC member utilities and increasing CMEEC operational transparency. As indicated in the article, those revisions would eliminate procedural stumbling blocks to recouping legal expenses, would cap financial exposure when reasonable settlements are rejected and higher costs result, and would require greater board accountability.

These are only some of the revisions to the CMEEC bylaws I have suggested on this issue. But because bylaws are prospective in nature, changes to them now cannot reverse expenses that have already been incurred. However, if adopted, these changes could help reduce excessive legal expenditures in the future. That would reduce CMEEC administrative overhead, leaving more revenue to flow to CMEEC member utilities and their downstream ratepayers.

Additional suggestions from the public are always welcome. One ratepayer, for example, suggested that the bylaws expressly state that any director who violates the recently revised CMEEC Code of Conduct be automatically dismissed from the board.  Another suggested that any decision to indemnify CMEEC directors or employees be made by an independent panel, such as one consisting of retired judges. Still other parties have proposed that CMEEC be directly regulated by the State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, like the retail electric utilities − Eversource and United Illuminating.

Unless CMEEC voluntarily agrees to adopt changes to its bylaws, legislative action is required to institute them; I do not have the legal authority to mandate that CMEEC accept them. However, I would urge CMEEC's Board of Directors to enact all of my proposed bylaw changes, and to consider those proposed by its member utility ratepayers. Doing so would be in the financial interest of CMEEC, its member utilities, and downstream ratepayers. It would also be an indication of good faith by the CMEEC board, and would increase organizational transparency.

The bottom line is that it would be a win-win-win from the ratepayers' perspective.

Bill Kowalski is the Connecticut municipal electric consumer advocate.

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