Memo to CMEEC Board: Reverse Course
Just when we had thought we had seen the full spectrum of righteous arrogance, those governing the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative (CMEEC) broke new ground this week.
Instead of facing the realities of five federal indictments of their chief executive officer, financial officer, and current and former board members, the CMEEC board circled the wagons and created more doubt about its competency to manage the $300 million ratepayer-funded agency. Rather than cleaning house and swiftly instituting the reforms needed to restore a semblance of confidence, the board scrambled to disassociate from their former colleagues and avoid responsibility for the mismanagement and corruption that apparently took place right under their noses while they were at the table.
A week after the indictments, the board convened at the luxurious Spa at Norwich Inn for its annual meeting, where members are supposed to reflect on past performance and set goals for the year ahead. With tranquil views and proper china for tea, the board voted to keep its indicted CEO Drew Rankin and initiate their own internal investigation, as if they had received a parking ticket in the mail. Does the CMEEC board think its in-house attorney, who was there alongside Rankin the whole time, will produce an investigation with more veracity and depth than the FBI?
Board member Paul Yatcko, from South Norwalk Electric and Water should be commended for opposing the reappointment of Rankin as well as the board’s resistance to dealing with the issue at hand.
“Even if his acts are not judged to be criminal by the federal court, this board must consider his (Rankin) business judgment and his integrity as demonstrated by his conduct as well as what remains of his credibility,” Yatcko said, “Beyond that, we must elect officers that are capable of providing the considerable support that will be required by (acting CEO) Mike Lane as he attempts to wrap his arms around his interim responsibilities.”
Nothing short of a full independent audits of all projects, accounts and investments: a brand new CMEEC board and experienced reputable executive management team, tough financial controls, and immediate ethics policy overhaul, will do as first steps toward recovery.
CMEEC’s champions were many in 2017, when I first sought legislation to bring transparency to the organization. Far fewer exist today. Only time will tell if CMEEC can or should be saved. Stalling, finger pointing, political favors and endless delays are no longer options. The affected communities may need to accept that CMEEC cannot be put back together again. But it is no less incumbent on the municipal leaders of member towns to demonstrate their commitment to CMEEC by facing the reality of what the organization is today while charting a course to earn back public confidence and, in time, public trust. How can state legislators be asked to consider a future that includes CMEEC if the affected community leaders do not approach the state with a viable path for reform?
Should the fate of ratepayers not be enough to motivate swift and meaningful action from local government, then the municipalities involved must recognize that bond houses and counterparts to CMEEC contracts are watching closely. The financial ramification for CMEEC’s actions and alleged crimes are ongoing, costly and very real.
It is time for all elected officials who represent CMEEC customers to join me and together demand the CMEEC board reverse course, open their books to review and stand ready to answer all questions about its operations. Anything less means complicity in cheating the ratepayers. That approach will make future reforms more dramatic, costly and painful.
Senator Heather Somers, a Republican, represents the towns of the 18th District, Griswold, Groton, North Stonington, Plainfield, Preston, Sterling, Stonington and Voluntown. On the web: http://ctsenaterepublicans.com/home-somers/.