Public Service Commission dismisses class-action complaint against Carroll Electric

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

LITTLE ROCK -- In a ruling issued Sept. 18, the Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) dismissed a class action complaint filed in July 2011 against Carroll Electric Cooperative Corporation by Ikard Wynne of Austin, Texas, representating Gordon Watson and Dane Schumacher.

The complaint, filed on behalf of all Carroll Electric members, asserts that the APSC has jurisdiction over Carroll Electric and seeks declaratory and injunctive relief for a number of what plaintiffs say are violations of Carroll Electric against its own bylaws and against contract law.

Specifically, the complaint lists concealment and withholding of patronage capital; unjust enrichment of board members; "incompatible" accounting practices; withholding of access to books, records, meeting minutes and mailing lists; and use of herbicides without member input and in violation of rights-of-way.

The complaint also seeks an award of attorney fees.

In its reply, attorneys for Carroll Electric asserted that, under state law governing the creation of the ASPC and its scope, it has no jurisdiction over any of the complaints against Carroll Electric except in the matter of patronage capital.

The ASPC agreed with Carroll Electric that it has no jurisdiction over anything except patronage capital. It can adjudicate "public rights asserted against utilities and to award monetary refunds and billing credits," but it cannot determine "disputes involving private rights found in the common law of contracts, torts or property."

The ASPC staff further asserts that any claim for violation of Carroll Electric's own bylaws as a "breach of contract" cannot "convert this private right into a public right...."

The ASPC also declined to consider the complaint as a class action "because any relief that may be awarded to Complainants regarding the retirement of patronage capital will also extend to all other members...."

Attorney Bill Ikard declined to comment on the ruling in detail but said Monday, "We're analyzing the order and discussing it and will be taking appropriate action within a short period of time."

As of press time, a spokesperson for Carroll Electric could not be reached.

To read the ASPC's full ruling, click here.

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