State District Judge Eugenio Mathis made an outstanding call last week when he ruled in favor of Rock Ulibarri in a case involving a pending election of the Mora-San Miguel Electric Cooperative. The judge was bold and decisive in his use of the law to right a wrong that otherwise would have usurped a democratic process.
Unfortunately, however, the process is still at risk of being usurped, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
On the face of it, the entire “decertification” of Ulibarri’s candidacy for the District 2 position was questionable. For Ulibarri’s name to be pulled off the ballot based on unsubstantiated allegations seemed wrong on the face of it.
Moreover, the fact that the co-op board was being chaired by Ulibarri’s sole opponent, Robert Quintana, when it decided to remove Ulibarri’s name from the ballot just added to questions about the legitimacy of the board’s decision.
Mathis, as part of his ruling, made it clear in no uncertain terms that the board acted inappropriately. He said he was “flabbergasted” by the procedure used, saying there was no evidence to support the decision to keep Ulibarri’s name off the ballot, and that board members had no right to use “evidence known only by them” to disqualify his candidacy.
“What you did not only smells bad, it was flat-out wrong, and you should have known better,” the judge said to co-op representatives at last week’s hearing.
However, that “flat-out wrong” behavior on the part of the co-op board members doesn’t smell as bad as the election they’ve set up.
Now, because of the judge’s ruling, which nixed the originally scheduled election (May 15), the board has rescheduled the election for Thursday, May 24. We suspect that, like last year when two incumbents were removed by voters, co-op members are ready for another change. This year, that’s spelled U-l-i-b-a-r-r-i, but if he’s to win, his supporters will have to jump through a couple of ridiculous hoops:
• Only three hours are set aside for the May 24 voting — from 4 to 7 p.m. — and if fewer than 100 voters show up during the first hour, from 4 to 5 p.m. (working hours for many), then Quintana, an oh-so-powerful incumbent, automatically gets another three-year term. Our understanding is that these restrictions to voting are required, by an absurd set of co-op bylaws.
• There’s only one polling place — in Las Vegas, at Bachicha Trucking at 15 Sale Barn Road. Don’t know where that is? Maybe that’s board members’ intention, since that was their decision.
Maybe this would be a better way to honestly announce this year’s co-op election: “These are the details for the coming election, but if you can’t make it, that’s OK, because we’d rather you not vote anyway.”
As for Ulibarri and his candidacy for the District 2 position: We know him for his many efforts to contribute to the betterment of the Las Vegas area. He can be trusted to do what he believes to be right. That would be a welcome addition to the co-op board. If District 2 co-op members want to see him take office, be prepared to do it the hard way — by voting despite the constraints laid out by the co-op’s bylaws and board.
Or, if Ulibarri is defeated, his supporters could do what he did — take it to a judge who recognizes an injustice when he sees one.