Community

Light Breeze . . . Vane sets to wind, sock begins to fill

I’ve been asked several times to put the story of the 1988 member uprising that replaced the Lincoln Electric Board on paper.  I suppose it should be written down – few electric cooperatives have had successful member uprisings, and, of the most active members of CREAM (Concerned REA Members), only Craig Eaton and I are still around to tell the tale.  Kenny Gwynn, Al Luciano, Duke Baney have long since passed on, but this is their story just as well.

And I am not going to identify the inside source.  Promised to keep the secret over 30 years ago, and the promise is still good.  Not going to tell you if our source – the other side used the word snitch – is male or female, alive or dead. 

I wasn’t involved at the beginning.  We started watching the board meetings in June or July, when Craig had commented on nepotism in LEC hiring.  The June 27, 1988 issue of the Mountain Ear headlines “Lincoln Electric Has New Nepotism Policy.”  “The new policy prohibits hiring of relatives (of management and supervisory employees) of the third degree and closer.”  July 25 included, “The board discussed proposed policy #700.  Policy #700 will require the public to be on the agenda before being heard.  The policy seems to be in response to Craig Eaton’s appearance before the board last May.”  September 5 headlined “REA Manager to Retire” and described how the manager would stay in Eureka for two years after retirement, as a consultant, with no managerial responsibilities or duties, receiving his regular salary as fixed in June 11, 1989.

In retrospect, it’s obvious things were heating up, and we were reporting them.  In the September 19 issue, I commented that I had 3 months off because of a broken back.  On September 26th we wrote:

“We’ve been attending Lincoln Electric co-op meetings for about 3 months now–since Craig Eaton told of nepotism in REA hiring. 
By and large, we hadn’t seen a need to cover these meetings before.  I turn the switch, and my lights, computer, whatever go on.  Trego has better electric service than anywhere else I’ve lived or worked–and considering the places I’ve packed a computer into as a consultant, that says a lot.
Unfortunately, several of the trustees, along with Craig Eaton, have brought us to the realization that you can’t judge every aspect of your electric co-op by pulling a light switch in the morning.
There’s a story to be told, and some accusations to be investigated.  We’ll be running a series of articles on the REA covering the accusations and making our own conclusions.  The Mountain Ear is too small a publication to cover all this in a single issue, and advertising is the tail that wags the dog–we can’t afford the single issue approach.
Besides, with this much controversy, we’ll get even better readership during the next couple of months.   

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