What Are Your Thoughts on Cobb EMC?

A busy week for Cobb EMC included the retirement and proposed rehiring of its embattled chief executive and a court hearing involving his indictment on theft and racketeering charges. Now it's time for you to have a say.

Cobb EMC, the nonprofit, customer-owned electric cooperative that serves about 200,000 customers across parts of Cobb, Cherokee, Bartow, Fulton and Paulding counties, has faced a pretty hectic few weeks.

  • Dwight Brown, the co-op's chief executive, retired Monday to fulfill terms of a 2008 court-ordered settlement between the company and suing customers. Brown had served as CEO since 1993.
  • The Cobb EMC board asked court permission to rehire Brown. As it awaits approval, Brown remains on the books as a consultant. Brown was indicted Jan. 6 on 31 theft and racketeering charges.
  • The board dropped a lawsuit against some of its customers who had sued it three years ago. The suit accused the customers of violating the 2008 agreement, saying their actions led to the grand jury investigation that resulted in Brown's indictment.

In the most recent development, Brown's attorneys contend that the indictment itself was handed down illegally because it was served in the new Superior Courthouse four days before the building's official opening to the public. State law requires indictments to be served in public, and Brown's legal team said a regular citizen could not access the courthouse Jan. 6.

Superior Court Judge Robert Flournoy III on Thursday said he would give attorneys on both sides until March 14 to file their final documents before he made a ruling.

Marietta Patch, launched just two months ago, is admittedly a little late in the game on this story. Most of it developed years before the site was even a grass seed. The story has been covered thoroughly by both the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which broke the story in 2007, and the , which provided gavel-to-gavel coverage of the latest hearing on Twitter on Thursday. The indictment of Brown came down within a week after Marietta Patch went live.

Additionally, you can find materials supporting the Cobb EMC position here and those against Brown and the Cobb EMC board here.

At Marietta Patch, we want to be a forum for your views and serve as a community gathering place where civil discourse can take place online. As you have seen in recent weeks, this site has become the place to air views about the calendar as well as the March 15 vote on SPLOST. Now it's time to open up the site to comments about Cobb EMC.

Bill Witherspoon March 06, 2011 at 12:25 PM
Just the fact they are trying such a stunt to circumvent the court, is a big negative to me. In regards to Cobb EMC, when you ride the roads of your area have you began to notice the lack of maintenance on the pole lines ? There are 100's of old poles sitting there, they have not been removed in months or years. Yes, some still have Comcast or AT&T attached, but you will be amazed as to how many are out there. There are some places, where there are even TWO old poles standing beside a new pole. Remember the tornado of May 2008 outside Woodstock. Cobb replaced poles on Trickam Road. Transfers were completed years ago. Now, almost THREE YEARS later, the poles are still there. W H Y ? Guess that's a way to pay Mr Brown's bonus ...eh ?
Chuck Stobar March 06, 2011 at 12:30 PM
I have been a Cobb EMC member for 22 years. I have had one -- ONE -- outage in all those years and that was during the blizzard of 1993. I also know my rates for electricity are less now than they were then. Somebody is doing something right and I'm personally a little sick of all this legal wrangling. I find it hard to comprehend how we members have been wronged by the business ventures Cobb EMC entered into through Cobb Energy.
Dan Davis March 06, 2011 at 02:38 PM
I've been a Cobb EMC member for 11 years, and have recently begun to investigate this issue very carefully, by reading Cobb EMC audit reports, civil suit depositions, and other available ORIGINAL documents and data. It's important that we members research this for ourselves. There is a great deal of disinformation flying around -- most of it from Cobb EMC sources. For example, The Cobb EMC Board likes to say that Dwight Brown's expertise and the Board's experience have kept member rates low. I took the time recently to analyze data that is publicly available on the Georgia Public Service Commission website. Since 1997, Georgia EMCs and public utilities have been submitting rates to the PSC twice a year (January and July) . The PSC publishes these in a "Residential Rate Survey" section of its website. As it turns out, constant claims to the contrary notwithstanding, Cobb EMC rates are NOT low. In fact, they have been consistently higher than both Georgia Power rates and the average rates of all the EMCs in Georgia. The 15-year averages (per KWH, all rate categories): Cobb EMC: 9.55 GA EMC Average: 9.11 Georgia Power: 8.43 While I don't think I can post a chart here, one chart I created from the raw PSC data shows that Cobb EMC annual average rates only dipped below Georgia Power's rates for a brief period between summer of 2007 and winter of 2009, and have increased by over 20% since 2000.
Dan Davis March 06, 2011 at 02:55 PM
Mr. Stobar: How? It would take several pages to detail all the ways in which we have been wronged. Cobb EMC does indeed provide very reliable service, and I see this as the distinction between the very high quality of work EMC employess deliver and the deplorable track record of the EMC's leadership. See my separate post below for just one example. I'm surprised that your rates are lower now than they were 22 years ago. (I assume that's what you mean by "less now than they were then.") Are you absolutely sure about that? In 1997, which is as far back as the PSC's records go, Cobb EMC rates were about 20% lower than they were in January of this year, and they've consistently averaged about 9% higher than Georgia Power rates over that 15-year period. I'm not saying you're wrong, but if your rates are lower your experience is definitely not typical, and I'd like to know your secret. Cobb EMC may be PAYING lower wholesale rates as a result of Dwight Brown's efforts to hold Oglethorpe Power hostage back in 1994, but if so the data indicates that the difference is not really being passed on to the members.
Tom Barksdale March 06, 2011 at 03:17 PM
Cobb EMC has become a poster boy for the flaws afflicting EMCs throughout the United States. Members have faced years of mis-administration, unending lawsuits, and postponed co-op elections. A new low was reached with the the indictment of CEO Dwight Brown for theft and racketeering--and now, in apparent defiance of members' opinions, the CEMC board wants to bring him back. Elections will be held someday, and members need to be prepared to vote for reform candidates. Meanwhile, contact your Georgia State Representative and tell him/her to support HB 316, requiring EMCs to open their board meetings to members. And get in touch with my group, the Cobb Alliance for Smart Energy, the only grassroots movement leading the campaign to reform CEMC, at www.cobbemcwatch.org. Facebook, too.
Tom Barksdale March 06, 2011 at 03:45 PM
Are you a member of Cobb EMC, or just an ordinary citizen concerned about honest corporate governance? Are you outraged by the reported intention of the CEMC board to restore Dwight Brown as CEO, despite his recent indictment on criminal charges and the fact that his retirement was required as part of a court settlement of a 2008 lawsuit that dismantled his and the board's brainchild, Cobb Energy, leaving members to pay the bill for that misguided boondoogle? Not to mention, paying Brown's legal fees? Come join other concerned citizens on March 8 to discuss how to reform a discredited Cobb EMC. See Patch EVENTS for details.
Harriet J. Hill March 06, 2011 at 03:55 PM
I have been a member of Cobb E.M.C since 1974. at that time we read our own meters and submitted to Cobb E.M.C.It was a honor to be able to be trusted to do so. Cobb E.M. C. is very hard to work with.If you have problems with your Bill,they will not work with customers.The cut you off no matter if it is cold in the winter. They are known to be very nasty to the customers who are paying there salary. They are not very liked by the customers they serve. Rude is the word for Cobb E.M.C.
David Lombrozo March 06, 2011 at 04:33 PM
Mr. Stobar: I have been a member of Cobb EMC for 15 years and my electricity goes off monthly. I know because I have computers and networks with Battery backup and they record each time. However, that's not the point. The employees of Cobb EMC are second to none. They do their work well and the service is good. However, my total cost per KWh is higher every year than the year before. I'm running for the Board to look out for our members interest as owners in the EMC. That is what this board and the current executive team has failed to do.
Pat Henry March 06, 2011 at 07:38 PM
Dwight Brown and his Board of Co-Conspirators set up Cobb Energy as a private company only to siphon off the funds and assets of Cobb EMC to themselves and various subsidiary companies, some of whom provide significant income to friends and relatives of Brown and the Board members while losing money. As a Cobb EMC member, I have gained absolutely no benefit from this setup. Whatever Brown and his merry band of thieves may have garnered for customers from purchasing electricity, it is without question that they have enriched themselves. We had no say in $13 million to name Cobb Energy Arts Center. When questioned at a meeting when asked how much his salary was from Cobb Energy, Brown replied that it was none of his business. He used our funds to forgive himself millions in loans for stock which only he and the board can own and which now pay handsome dividends. The board members receive ridiculous retirement benefits for part time work. The lawyer Cobb EMC members have to pay to defend his thievery appointed the judge who heard the case. It was no accident that the indictment was handed down in the still closed courthouse and they are now contending this makes it invalid. The judge didn't want to show off the new courthouse to the jury - he wanted Brown to get the charges thrown out on a technicality.
Crystal Miron March 07, 2011 at 04:54 AM
Like some of the other posters to this article, I have been following the shenanigans regarding Cobb EMC for a few years now. Just when I think the situation can't get any more absurd or infuriating for the membership, they somehow manage to keep upping the ante. The continued legal wrangling at the expense of the members has been frustrating enough, but the board's recent announcement that they intend to rehire Brown is completely insulting. What real world, reputable organization would be tripping over itself like this to keep on staff someone indicted for theft and racketeering? I just can't think of an example where this would make good business sense to any other corporation. In fact what it says to me is this... Dwight Brown has called the shots since 1993 and this board has rubber stamped his every decision. They are coming across as frightened they cannot function without him, because they will suddenly have to start making decisions without having Brown there to hold there hands and tell them exactly what to think. It's severely disappointing that the democratic process at the co-op remains blocked by the courts. The Cobb EMC board members complacent in the creation of Cobb Energy and the relating stock deals CLEARLY failed to represent the best interests of the membership, and they deserve to be retired or removed just as much as Dwight Brown does. Members should be furious, and committed to voting them out when we finally can.
Jason Dilling March 08, 2011 at 10:25 PM
They have been allowed to take the democracy out of a democratic organized entity. What I pay here is much higher than similar bills with my previous EMC. Then they take a guy who is under indictment and try to rehire him while the board has served a full additional unelected term because they are fighting so hard to keep the owner customers out of the company's operations. Fortunately, cobemcwatch.com is around to help balance the marketing spilling out of the company. Clark Howard says we should vote them out, and I am all about it as soon as the Supreme Court of Georgia lets us.
Tom Barksdale March 09, 2011 at 01:22 PM
I am the chairman of the Cobb Alliance for Smart Energy (CASE), the sponsors of www.cobbemcwatch.org. Thank you for your kind words. We are the only grassroots movement mobilizing opposition to the current leadership of Cobb EMC by supporting reform candidates to run against the entrenched incumbents. There is something you can do today, March 9, to further the cause of CEMC reform. A bill, HB 316, was recently introduced into the Georgia House of Representatives. It would require all Georgia EMCs to permit members to attend board meetings. It’s the best piece of legislation regarding EMCs introduced in the General Assembly in living memory. It faces an uphill battle. Right now, it seems stalled in the committee to which it has been assigned, the Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications Committee. The chairman of that committee is Don Parsons, from Cobb County, District 42. I will be talking to Rep. Parsons this afternoon, March 9. Please contact Rep. Parsons’ office this morning by phone and/or e-mail and deliver this message: “I support HB 316, the EMC open meetings bill. I hope you will support it, too. I urge the Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications Committee to expedite consideration of this bill and send it forward to the full House to be voted on. I hope Rep. Parsons will continue to do all he can to secure approval of HB 316.” Contact info: repdon@donparsons.org Phone: 404-656-9198 401 State Capitol Atlanta, Georgia 30334
nancy hosford March 11, 2011 at 01:06 AM
My power bill is unbelievable, it goes up every month and I have no choice but to pay it.They have cut my power off before due date on more than one occasion in the winter with small children in home. They ought to have plenty of money as they are robbing their customers.
an80sreaganite March 29, 2011 at 03:49 PM
I own property in another state that gets its power from a "co-op". At least there I get a check once a year as a participant in the co-op. Admittedly, it doesn't even cover the taxes on the electricity I bought, but it still feels like I belong to an actual co-op. I've never received anything but a bill from Cobb EMC... This whole thing with Cobb EMC & Brown stinks to high heaven. I suspect they keep paying him as consultant because he "knows where all the bodies are buried" in the whole fiasco. The entire board ought to be cleaned out, a new one appointed and a new CEO & CFO hired. Is there REALLY no one else qualified to run Cobb EMC?
Pat Henry March 29, 2011 at 04:43 PM
The technicality that allowed the indictment to be ruled "flawed" was a contrived set up from the get go to allow a guilty Brown to walk away without jail time for years to come while the merits are appealed to the GA Supreme Court. We, the ratepayers, will have to pay for the prosecution as well as the defense. It is unbelievable that an attorney could not find his way into the court house that day. He had a cell phone I am sure and he knows the way into the old courthouse which has a skywalk into the new court house. He graduated from law school and passed the bar and you expect us to believe that he really could not find his way into the court room? Barnes arranged for this whole scenario - using his associate and his appointed judge. Brown is excused not because he is clean but because of trickery. What I do not understand is why the indictments did not include the Board and the attorneys - after all, Brown said they all approved of everything he did. By the way, the Cobb attorney appeared before Don Parsons' committee (I forgot his name - Hunter something - he was at the Cobb Republican convention and is very, very tall). He told the committee he was not prepared to speak that day, but that there were may lies told by the EMC members (including Fletcher Thompson), and that he would talk to them in PRIVATE! And, they were okay with that. So much for transparency. During the hearing, Don Parsons was bored, detached, and never asked anyone a question.
Tom Barksdale March 30, 2011 at 02:08 PM
I want top remind new participants in this forum that there is a group that has been working for two years to bring reform to Cobb EMC by electing reform candidates to its Board of Directors. That's the group that I head, the Cobb Alliance for Smart Energy (CASE). CASE is an independent, Cobb-based grassroots movement led and supported by fed-up CEMC members and ordinary citizens concerned about honest corporate governance. Check us out on Facebook or at www.cobbemcwatch.org. I stress "independent," because there are special interest groups based in Atlanta who are attempting to hijack the CEMC reform movement to serve their own selfish motives. Check with CASE for details.


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