Dispute may mean new election for trustee position

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By David Giuliani

Daniel Romero thought last week that a one-vote victory meant he would stay on the Mora-San Miguel Electric Cooperative’s Board of Trustees.

Now it’s not such a sure thing.

Romero, who represents the San Juan-based District 4, prevailed over opponent Louis Clayton during last week’s trustee election with 34 votes to 33.

But Clayton has filed a protest, saying the utility didn’t meet a quorum requirement on voting day.

According to the cooperative’s bylaws, the district needed 66 people — or 5 percent of members — within the first hour of the three hours of voting. Instead, the utility operated under a rolling quorum over the three hours, as called for under a 1993 policy.

Carlos Lovato, the board’s chairman, said the 1993 board-enacted policy contradicts the bylaws and that no policy or tradition can supersede the bylaws.

“We may have erred. There is nothing in the bylaws that allows for a running quorum,” Lovato said. “We have to follow the mandate of the people, and that’s the bylaws.”

He said the board would likely have to hold a new election, as called for under the bylaws when the cooperative doesn’t meet the quorum requirement in a trustee election.

Nicolas Leger, the utility’s attorney, said it’s the board call, but he believes the 1993 policy clarifies the bylaws and that the rolling quorum is allowed.

“The policy was a practical interpretation and application of the bylaws,” he said.

Leger said it’s difficult to get quorums and that the cooperative would have to endlessly reschedule elections. “The incumbents would remain in office,” he said.

Leger said that during the election, he took Romero and Clayton aside and suggested they call people to get them to the polls so the utility would meet the rolling quorum.

“Both of them had no problem with that and made calls,” he said.

Romero said he agrees with Leger that it was a legal election. He said Lovato and others had no problem with the rolling quorum when people they liked were in the same situation.

But Romero said they all of a sudden raise the quorum issue after he wins. He said they didn’t like his position in favor of reducing the board from 11 members to five, a measure that the membership approved last year.

The trustees discussed the election issue at their monthly meeting Tuesday night. Lovato said Leger presented his interpretation and noted a portion of the bylaws that states the trustees can enact policies for the conduct of elections.

Lovato said the attorney’s opinion isn’t clear and that Clayton suggested he would go to court to clear up the matter.

In the Pecos-based District 5, Robert Baca beat Diego Quintana with 155 votes to 119.