Thursday, April 17, 2014

Potentially Actionable?!?

So now OPALCO is threatening to sue Bob Jarman?

We were going to move on from the OPALCO story, but the following letter just came to light. It seems that after Bob Jarman wrote a letter to the online news outlets raising questions about OPALCO, he received the letter below from OPALCO's legal counsel. We presume the current OPALCO Board authorized the letter ... but if they didn't, that's even worse.

It's a head scratcher. What is it about this place that causes everyone in an official position to view dissent as a crime?

For full disclosure, the Trojan Heron would like nothing better than to have high-speed broadband access for everyone in the islands. We feel it is a necessity for any participant in the modern economy, but holy smokes ... can we get some outfit to provide broadband service who doesn't behave like either OPALCO or Centurynolink?


  1. Wow. This goes down in the record books of bad form, and it provides evidence of everything OPALCO's critics were saying. The letter says the Board's actions are transparent. Uh huh, we're just going to sue you, Bob. Our Board or anyone else can speak their mind, but you'll be getting a letter from us in the morning because we take our reputation very seriously.

    Too seriously. Get over yourselves.

    Wow. I mean, just wow! If I could cut off my electricity and move to another provider I would after reading this letter.

  2. Many OPALCO critics are Luddites who are trying to portray OPALCO as a diseased corrupt organization. It isn't. The letter isn't the smartest move, but much of the OPALCO criticism is unwarranted.

  3. @5:47

    Right. The main critics of the OPALCO Board are trying to stop technology.

  4. OPALCO made a mistake by not welcoming Mike Greene. I think the best hope for broadband in the islands is a combination of Rockisland and OPALCO.

  5. I wonder how much that letter cost to write? I wonder who had the idea to have that letter written, someone on the OPALCO board with a legal background perhaps who just got her knickers in a twist? How totally bizarre.

    No way am I Luddite, what utter nonsense. It is almost criminal that the underlying fiber optic resources and bandwidth have been operational now for years with no effective business organization to bring these assets into the local market. Especially when you look around the United States and Canada for countless success stories and models for community broadband.

    What is transparent, and what other commenters have noted, is that the institutional culture of OPALCO needs to get hosed out, and become younger if this broadband program is to get traction. Otherwise you'll just see more of this. This is an extreme over-reaction to public criticism and it is exactly what it appears to be.

  6. 35 comments and counting between this thread and the last. And not a single useful idea on the main problem. Everyone claims to want Broadband, but everyone want someone else to pay for it. Hell, there's people on Lopez who think too much is being spent on electricity, let alone Broadband.
    Hundreds of other communities got grants back in 2009-2010, and are building there own systems now. But our county slept! If the fiber already in the ground doesn't get extended a lot, you can kiss of any improvement. Instead of beating the crap out of those trying to do something, we who want Broadband should be trying to help them.

  7. Glenna Hall who is on the OPALCO board is running for reelection. She is a retired Superior Court judge. Wonder if she thinks this is kosher.

  8. Actually I think the message coming through from 35 comments is pretty clear. The solution advocated is some institutional reform within OPALCO (at both board and staff levels) with more public transparency and participation in the bandwidth program. Embrace Rockisland as a partner. Listen to what Bob has to say, even if there were a few errors, they are likely unintentional. Althought the technology is not really the issue, its the application of it, and the need for an innovation based business climate led by a younger generation accustomed to agile management that is needed for OPALCO to take basic next steps. We all own this coop. Get out on the ferry for the annual meeting and look around you. For many, many years the primary audience of OPALCO who tended to show up are a geriatric constituency interested in holding down utility rates on fixed incomes. That's not bad, but OPALCO needs to hear more from the broadband constituency as well, and they have to show up in force on the Elwa for the next annual board meeting.

    Be there. They give a good show and a great potluck.

  9. @8:08am

    I think you make some good points. Especially the geriatric ossification influence. Face it, to do anything more than "hobby" wireless (nail some wifi stuff up in a tree) means more fiber. The old folk don't want to pay. They get one email a week with a picture of the grandchild, and feel dial-up is just fine. All OPALCO ever hears from are geezers and Luddites.

  10. If you go to OPALCO's site, you can see that last year, they spent $50,461 in legal expenses...with an off-island attorney. Think LOCAL and SAVE MONEY! We're buying local - why aren't they?

    Good point, April 18, 2014 at 7:28 AM, if Glenna Hall supports this kind of thing, I'd like to ask her why she thinks sending a letter from a Seattle attorney is better than just TALKING to Jarman about his misconceptions.

    We're all neighbors here - we ain't THAT BIG yet! ... are we?

  11. Annual OPALCO Meeting:

    Saturday, MAY 3rd

    Travel Schedule:

    Members from SJ Island will sail to Orcas by chartered boat to catch ferry. CALL! - Limited Apace: 376-3549
    (I find it funny that they have limited space for a coop meeting)
    Arr: Spring St Landing: 6:45am, Register
    Board boat: 7:20
    Arr Orcas: 8:30
    Return to Friday Harbor by 1pm via chartered boat

    Entire Travel Schedule here:

    Candidate Bios here:

  12. I agree with @8:08. I also think OPALCO lacks the knowledge to capitalize on broadband, so it should joint venture with Rockisland. OPALCO has to give up on the idea that it can do it alone. Broadband is too far outside its core competence. It has an important piece to offer, but it is a player, not the whole package. It has to stop tripping over its own hubris too.

  13. Speaking of geezers (and I am one) we got our second big bright postcard telling us to vote for the Fire Levy- Orcas' population has grown and gotten older, increased regulations, inflation and 119% call increase. Think the writings on the wall for this one.

  14. For the record: I did not initiate the letter to Councilmember Jarman, nor did I have any communication whatever with OPALCO's lawyers regarding Councilmember Jarman. I was not aware that the letter was being contemplated. I did not see it until well after it was sent. I'm not sure if I used the word "dumb" to Mr. Macleod, but I know I told him sending such a letter would not have been my approach, and I stand behind that statement.

  15. If this is a coop, then can't we learn to cooperate when new things are being discussed? Complaining about Luddites and old geezers doesn't address the points needing discussion.

    Broadband is critical for our islands. OPALCO is certainly a player in developing broadband connections. But it is first an electric utility and needs to be clear and open about this new area of business. Jarman's complaint was not about fraud or lack of standard financial records that pass muster with the various authorities. It is a management issue when the way finances are aggregated or delineated leads to an inability of the owners to see the financial results of one line of business.

    It really doesn't matter how many comments are posted-- it only matters how many issues need open discussion and resolution. Hiring a Seattle attorney to write threatening letters is not helping -- especially from one who can't even spell OPALCO (see last paragraph).

  16. Agreed. The Co-Op is not transparent and if they tak their reputation so seriously then why are they so secretive in their dealings? Explains the grant partnership to the tune of $150,000 to the fraudulent San Juan Islands Conservation District and its head grant masterminds of Ronald Zee and Linda Lyshall with out consent of OPALCO members.

  17. Thank you for the response, Glenna!

    If the board isn't aware of what the co-op's attorneys are DOING, something's gotta change!

    Do the co-op members approve of the attorneys representing the co-op in this unfriendly fashion? Does the board approve of this? If not, let's get a LETTER out to the Seattle attorneys ASAP! *wink*

  18. Maybe a Freedom Of Information Act request is needed on the discussion/emails between the San Juan Conservation District (state/county tax funded) and OPALCO (who granted $150,000) will put light on the political trajectory that prompts trumped up legal threats to Jarman and denial of Greene?

    It seems obviously part of the continued take over designed by the Zee Democrats and the "San Juan Leadership" creeps.

  19. What is this about OPALCO "granting" $150,000 to Zee's Conservation District? That can't be right. I thought the only charitable giving from OPALCO was to public schools.

    Did they "partner" on a grant? I remember that Ron Zee ran for an OPALCO board seat a few years ago and lost, thank God.

    I appreciate the clarification on who did NOT write letter. The question remains, who did authorize the letter? The General Manager? That is where I would look next.

  20. @4:21

    For the Conservation District's "leadership." They actually used the word "leadership." Do we really need to listen to this OPALCO Board anymore?

  21. $150K to Lyshall & Zee? Here are some things I'd be curious to know:

    1. Was any other organization considered as a recipient in making the grant?
    2. Did the Conservation District respond to an open request for grant proposals or did the CD submit a blind grant application? (Goes to who else was considered, if anyone.)
    3. Does the grant cover indirect costs (i.e., Lyshall or Zee's salary)?
    4. What are the metrics for success as outlined in the grant - how will OPALCO know whether the grant was a wise use of ratepayer's money?
    5. What was the source of the funds for the grant - is the cost of the grant built into the rate structure, or was the grant a passthrough of some other grant from BPA or some other org?
    6. To whom is the CD accountable for the expenditures made under the grant?

    Rather than fret about dark conspiracies involving the E&O and other insurance provided to the board members, maybe checking on something like this would be a better use of some folks' time. Honestly, with furry nutballs running around like some of the flat-earthers, any board member who doesn't load up on E&O insurance is as crazy as the crazies. Every couple of months they're accused of being guilty of "civil crimes", which makes about as much sense as a "retroactive restraining order", which maybe some of the board members might want to seek.

    Increased transparency is itself a laudable goal, not simply as a stalking horse for those interested in returning the county to the 1890s.

  22. Alex MacLeod published a well written statement about OPALCO.

    I've got my ballot. I like Hudson, having met him on several occasions and listened to him articulate his vision for OPALCO leadership. Ask him.

    For my 2nd vote, I am up in the air but am firmly in the "Not Ms. Hall" column.

    Vote early, vote often.

  23. Does anybody on this blog ever SEARCH anything before getting wound up with conspiracy theories?

    OPALCO gets funds from the BPA each year to give grants to nonprofit organizations to encourage energy efficiency programs.

    From the description of the 2013/2014 program:

    "The participating groups include Island Stewards, San Juan Islands Conservation District, Solar Gardens and the Opportunity Council. Members of Islands Energy Coalition and Gray Cope, who are considering participation, were also in attendance. Eligible organizations must have a board that includes representation from all ferry served islands."

    Finding this took 10 seconds with the search terms: "opalco conservation district grant."

  24. @8:17

    You give a reason, in 10 seconds, why some people are questioning this dispersal of money.

    "Eligible organizations must have a board that includes representation from all ferry served islands."

    The Conservation District does not currently meet the eligibility criteria as far as I know. They have no Board member from Shaw. Also, at the time the money was given out, I believe they had no Board member from Orcas either.

    Then how/why did they get the money?

  25. @8:17 - you answered exactly one (1) of the questions I posed. Well, actually, you didn't answer it. I knew that OPALCO gets grants from BPA. What I didn't know, and still don't know, is whether this particular $150K grant was sourced from a BPA grant.

    My other questions stand: particularly, what are the metrics for success?mis ther any accountability involved or is the money available for indirect costs like Lyshall's salary? Some of us are a little reluctant to support her financially even indirectly. I'm adamantly opposed to giving Zee one damned dollar for any reason.

    No conspiracy theory, just questions. Apparently it's OK when some people ask questions (endlessly) and not others?

  26. I know Bob Myhr is not up for re-election this round but I sure wish he was. He has been on the OPALCO board a long time, and I believe he served on the County Commission (sic) and Council simultaneously. His track record and inclinations are well known. He was no Friend of the fiber optic project from the beginning, worried about attracting more people and businesses, opposed cable runs across Lopez. You have to remember how important the geography of Lopez Island is. That is the head-end to the submarine cables to Anacortes. Loop redundancy around the islands is essential to attracting use and business investment, however OPALCO has only maintained a microwave link between San Juan and Lopez (which saved our collective butts last Fall when the CenLink line was severed. But ultimately a physical fiber optic cable "self healing loop" has to be in place around the islands. Right now there is not, and Lopez obstructionist politics is in the middle of it. If ever there was a Mole in the Machine inside OPALCO its Bob Myhr. Also look at a few of the old time staffers running the show behind the scenes in a manner we've become all too aware of in county government. Hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist but this fiber optic program began over ten years ago. To imagine there has been no political obstruction to its expansion and general use is nonsense and I place Myhr right in the middle.

  27. Myhr has been one of the most effective, sneakiest, and most well-connected de-growth operatives in the islands. I think you're right @10:17. I also think the Luddites and Coalition for Stone-Age Communes (or whatever that thing is that Chom Greacen uses as an annoying soapbox) exists to quash technology access for everyone else.

    Lopez is not the only contributor to county backwardness. Orcas, which should know better, continues to produce some of the dumbest public servants ever. Lopez may be sneaky, but Orcas is a combination of stupid and oblivious, seasoned with self-righteous arrogance.

  28. I am not a conspiracy theorist and I don't believe there is intended malice on behalf of the board or employees at OP.

    However, I do believe like many have mentioned here OP just don't know how to do this in a effective manner. There is a reasonable amount of technical know how on the BB subject within the org, but what is lacking is a marketing and sales mentality. They need to develop a plan to support a $5-$7m revenue per annum business that will have a dynamic customer base over the long term. An enterprise that has to be nimble and adapt to an ever shifting landscape. This requires risk taking, bold decisions and a creative approaches to problems. There is no reason why this can't be a stand alone profitable enterprise that is only adding value to the community both in terms of direct and indirect benefits. The asset value alone is incredibly valuable to the community.

    If we want to see growth in renewable energy sector in the county it can only be supported by a capable communication system to monitor and support the fragmented supply chain of renewable power supply.

    Also, the naysayers who don't believe the money should be spent given their lack of use are beyond shortsighted on the subject. This will be the an important investment that will enable them to stay in there homes as they age. Without real BB the chance of seeing a viable healthcare system is extremely low. The view facilities we have that don't support the aging population very well, lack of good in-home care providers is a growing challenge.

    I really want to see OP just do this, hire younger more aggressive people who can deploy creative solutions and sell this thing. Partner with the right folks in the community who need to be at the table and stop asking permission... JUST DO IT... the business will work because the demand is only growing and anyone who is against this won't be around for much longer...

    I am sorry, but the Lopez minority wackadoos can just not get the service... the reasonable majority of folks on Lopez need to stand up, be louder and demand action.

    @8:08 and others (Lawlor etc) on the previous post have said it correctly... anyone on the fence on this issue has to take the attitude of "plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit"

    Also, thank you Glenna. On the matter of this letter, the board clearly needs to evolve if things like this are not managed correctly.

  29. And I quote --

    "These responsibilities include duties of care, responsibility, and obedience."

    Obedience? To whom? Who are the OPALCO directors obeying? The lawyers?

  30. This is amazing. How much of our money did it take for a lawyer to write that letter, I wonder?

    If the Board wanted to set the record straight, one of them could have written a letter tot he editor. But NOOOOOO.

    Also, it would be nice if the lawyer knew the name of the client. OPACLO?