Heber City Councilman Alan McDonald Comments On Heber Light & Power Board Meeting
|Today I attended a public meeting held by the Heber Light & Power board, and asked the members of the board to return the money they have collected from their most recent pay increase. Here is the transcript of the comments I made:
I am Alan McDonald, member of the Heber City Council, customer of Heber Light & Power and former board member of Heber Light & Power.
I had the privilege of working with the Heber Light & Power Company and most of the board members last year. The majority of the decisions that we made as a board last year where based on a genuine commitment to serve our community and the company with one glaring exception, the most recent pay increase for members of the board. The decision by some of the board members to increase the benefits of its constituent members was self-serving, and wrong.
This pay increase was agreed upon by certain members before it was even considered by the board as a whole. I was on the Heber Light & Power board from Jan. to Dec. 2011. No information on any wage increase or health benefit for the board was ever presented during this time to the board as a whole nor was the full 6 member board given the opportunity to just ask why we are even looking at this. There were 3 of the 6 board members who were not part of the Human Resource Committee that had no clue that this was even being discussed by other board members.
I and board member Kohler had other obligations and were not able to attend the board meeting in November when it was presented. As a board member, I had been given the opportunity in the past to study the actions that we as a board were to take carefully and seek input from the staff and other board members on most issues; and yet, this pay increase was presented and passed without prior discussion or notice to the full board.
I have gone through the 2012 budget and there is no line item for board health insurance costs or for the in lieu of wage increase for the board nor any adjustments made to the 2012 budget to say where the money was coming from to pay for it. This health package decision was not justified nor has anyone provide the facts on why it needed to be put in place.
There seemed to be an attempt to obscure this action from other board members and the public.
From this health insurance benefit package, the public has lost confidence in the Heber Light & Power board to make sound decisions in the best interest of the company and the people they represent. This single decision has blighted the reputation of the company, and fostered the disdain of the general public.
The people you were supposed to represent have demonstrated their disapproval by signing petitions, voicing opposition through the local media, and even appearing in large numbers before this very board. Can there be any ambiguity concerning the will of the public?
The public has demanded that this pay increase be rescinded and the money received form it be paid back and yet it remains unchanged. I’m not sure if the board is oblivious of the will of its constituents, or if it is simply contemptuously defiant to it. In either case it is clear that the board is not eager to rescind this decision and repay the money on the basis of what is right. Perhaps the board would consider its own set of by-laws instead.
According to the Heber Light & Power by-laws that govern the actions of the board, “the board may adopt and amend by-laws not inconsistent with… the laws of the State of Utah”. This most recent policy that was adopted by certain members of the board is clearly inconsistent with at least two state laws.
1.The Health care package exceeds the $5K annual compensation limit for board members in State Code 17B-1-307. (The state code also says that pay provided to a member with health coverage under group insurance plans shall be included as part of the member’s compensation.)
2.The board failed to provide a public hearing as is required by State Code 10-3-818; which says that in the event that the governing body decides that the compensation schedules [for board members] should be adapted, changed, or amended, it shall set a time for a public hearing at which all interested persons shall be given an opportunity to be heard.
The board must consider the potential for a class action lawsuit against the company for not adhering to its own by-laws. The board ought to amend its policies and add at least the two state codes I have stated to help prevent this sort of problem from occurring in the future.
In addition to following state law, the board should follow the HL&P resolution which says that “Each board member shall make Diligent efforts to inform the governing body of the Party (or the Municipality) that he represents, of the Company’s business including the Company’s operations, long term contracts, debts, and general financial conditions.”
The by-laws state clearly that the Heber Light & Power board member represents their municipality and not themselves. It is their duty to be diligent to inform their governing bodies or councils that they represent of the affairs of Heber Light & Power. To a large degree, this is not happening. Your governing bodies have the duty and authority to ask detailed questions of their representatives and you have the duty to tell them even if they do not ask. Members of your governing bodies are being told that they have no business in the affairs of HL&P. Your By-laws state they do.
This decision on the health insurance package is not yours to make, but belongs to the governing body that you represent. I ask that you follow the Heber Light & Power resolution, and seek to represent the will of your governing bodies and shareholders of the company.
Councilman Kohler and I voiced our discontent with this new benefit in last December’s board meeting upon learning that it had been passed. We asked then, that the decision be rescinded, and we were ignored. Once again, I call on the board to rescind this benefit and return to sound governing principles.
Councilman Kohler was the first to return the money he received from this pay increase, and Councilman Mergist and I have also followed suit. I ask the remaining board members to follow the example that County Councilman Kohler set, and return the money you have been given from this health care package.
BY ALAN MCDONALD