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Candidate for Energy Co-Op Board Says Bylaws are Unfair

Members of an electric cooperative in Shelby, Henry, Trimble and Carroll counties will vote soon in the co-op's first ever contested election for board members. But one of the candidates has encountered problems in every step of the process.Shelby Energyis an electric co-op, which means it’s technically owned by its members. And those members can vote for the co-op's board of directors. Sonia McElroy is running for a spot on the board, but in taking on an incumbent, McElroy has repeatedly butted up against the co-op’s bylaws, which she says are unfair.Last month, all co-op membersreceived notice of Shelby Energy’s annual meeting, where members vote for the board of directors. If a member can’t attend, the form directs them to mail the form back. In smaller print, it says that by doing so, they’re letting the board cast their vote for them.Members can also designate a proxy to vote for them at the meeting, but there are no instructions stating that on the form. So McElroy says the system is stacked in favor of incumbents.“I have no chance at winning,” she says. “Because in all likelihood, when I look at their election process, it is no fair and it is not at all democratic.”Shelby Energy attorney Don Prather says the election is being run in accordance with the co-op’s bylaws. Each of Kentucky’s twenty-four electric cooperatives has its own set of rules. Prather says the dust up over McElroy's candidacy has been a learning experience.“The cooperative directors have made it clear that they want this election to be conducted in as fair of a process as possible,” Prather says. “We do have bylaws that have to be followed, and those bylaws are being followed.”McElroy is running on a platform of increasing the percentage of energy the cooperative gets from renewable sources. She’s calculated in order to even counter the board’s vote, at least 250 people would have to show up at the co-op’s annual meeting to vote for her, and each would have to vote for themselves and three other proxies.

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Director of News and Programming.