[Watchdogs] PEC scores low on trustworthiness [Austin American-Statesman]

David Lambing user261483 at yahoo.com
Wed Feb 24 16:51:54 CST 2010

When did this survey take place?  No one in my sub-division even heard abouta survey.  Was is only a few "chosen" members??  I think I'd like that job nexttime too.

--- On Wed, 2/24/10, Milton Hawkins <milton.hawkins at gmail.com> wrote:

From: Milton Hawkins <milton.hawkins at gmail.com>
Subject: [Watchdogs] PEC scores low on trustworthiness [Austin American-Statesman]
To: "Watchdogs" <watchdogs at pec4u.org>
Date: Wednesday, February 24, 2010, 2:17 PM

PEC scores low on trustworthiness
Members like service, but they and employees are displeased about management.


By   Patrick George



Published: 8:41 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2010

A survey of Pedernales Electric Cooperative members and
employees reveals that although about three-quarters of the co-op's
members are satisfied with their electrical service, many co-op
employees remain critical of management's openness, leadership and
treatment of personnel.Among the findings: Only 1 in 3 employee
respondents agree that "PEC's leadership can be trusted to do what it
says it is going to do."Even fewer — 26 percent — think that
their pay is linked to performance, and only 28 percent feel confident
that management is working to serve members or that the board is doing
a good job.The low numbers might seem surprising, given the
avowed determination of the co-op's leadership to turn over a new leaf
after the tumult of recent years, when disclosures of questionable
practices forced out many top officials. But they also reflect a common
criticism of Pedernales employees: Many distrusted managers who were
part of the co-op's old culture remain at their jobs.The survey,
compiled by Austin-based research firm SomersetGuild, was released at
Monday's regular meeting of the co-op board of directors. It took about
nine months to survey or interview 900 co-op members, 700 employees,
local officials, a co-op watchdog group and all but one board member.Board President Larry Landaker said the board will take the results to heart."It's very important that our employees and members know we hear what they say," Landaker said.
Austin Energy head Juan Garza took over as general manager of the co-op
in 2008, and the board began a series of reforms that year.His
predecessor, Bennie Fuelberg, has since been indicted on felony charges
of theft, money laundering and misapplication of fiduciary duty.Throughout
his tenure, Garza has pressed for more openness and accountability at
Pedernales — even when some longtime board members were uneasy with the
new direction. The survey, which cost $250,000, was part of that effort."We
conducted this research to learn the true perceptions of PEC from
members and stakeholders and provide a safe haven for all employees to
express their views," Garza said. "We have chosen the road of open
communication, so this information was presented in the open session of
our board meeting."At the same meeting Monday, however, the
board failed to muster the two-thirds majority needed to pass new
bylaws meant to make some reforms permanent. And the survey noted that
some employees reported they were afraid to participate in the research
for fear of losing their jobs.In the survey of members, about 60
percent said they think Pedernales treats its members fairly, and about
50 percent said they think Pedernales is trustworthy. The co-op has
more than 200,000 members, who are also its customers.For the
survey and interviews of employees, SomersetGuild contacted a
cross-section of workers, from managers on down the line. Though
employees reported a high level of commitment to Pedernales, a strong
devotion to serving members and a good sense of camaraderie, they also
expressed a great deal of concern, the survey said."Sessions
were highly emotional. Employees had very deep feelings about the
problems facing PEC," according to the survey presentation. "Employees
were hopeful, but highly skeptical that anything would happen as a
result of the research."Garza said that management isn't taking the report lightly."We're
already working on initiatives to address concerns raised in the
report, and starting tomorrow, I'm visiting each office and inviting
every employee to further discuss any issues or ideas they have to move
the cooperative forward," he said.Member research consisted of surveys and focus groups that included rural and commercial power users.About
62 percent of respondents said their electric power is reliable, 48
percent said power is promptly restored after an outage, and 35 percent
said they are kept informed about important issues.The research
firm said PEC board members and officials need to do a better job
initiating contact with members, develop a better Web site and promote
the co-op's environmental efforts without losing its rural character.
About 45 percent of members surveyed said they didn't know whether PEC
was acting to protect the environment.pgeorge at statesman.com; 512-392-8750

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