JWC Meeting Turns into Bedlam

Jenkinsville Water Company Board President Gregrey Ginyard (left) looks on as ballots are counted during last week's annual meeting. (Photo/Barbara Ball)

Jenkinsville Water Company Board President Gregrey Ginyard (left) looks on as ballots are counted during last week’s annual meeting. (Photo/Barbara Ball)

JENKINSVILLE (Jan. 19, 2017) – The Jan. 13 annual meeting of the Jenkinsville Water Company (JWC) was, by most any standard, a Donnybrook, complete with angry outbursts and shouting matches between the President of the Water Company Board and many of the 100 or so members in the audience. It was a repeat of last year’s annual meeting.

Claiming that the JWC Board did not adhere to the Freedom of Information Act or even their own bylaws in conducting last year’s meeting, which included the election of Board members, Donald Melton and Broad River Campground, LLC filed a pre-emptive motion in the Fairfield County Court of Common Pleas for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to delay the Jan. 13 meeting until 1) proper notification is given, 2) a procedure is put in place to verify that voters claiming to represent commercial customers were actually asked to represent them and 3) the Board can ensure that the one-member/one-vote rule in the bylaws is being followed.

After hearing testimony from both sides on Jan. 6, Sixth Circuit Judge DeAndrea Benjamin ruled that while she would allow the JWC to proceed with its annual meeting as scheduled, she would also allow the plaintiff, if not satisfied that the meeting and the election of Board members had adhered to the company’s bylaws, to bring the case back before the court for a re-hearing.

Melton’s attorney, Glenn Bowens, told The Voice on Monday that he hopes to bring the case back to court to challenge the election within the next couple of weeks.

“We’re hoping to have the election overturned and a new election held that will result in properly elected trustees,” Bowens said.

Bowens said that while notice of the meeting probably met the requirements of the bylaws this year, he said the election process itself was obstructed.

“Some members were allowed to cast more than one vote if they had a water bill for both a residence and a business,” Bowens told The Voice. “That is not allowed in the bylaws, which state, ‘No member shall be entitled to more than one vote at meetings of the Members or to hold more than one membership in the corporation.’”

Bowens also expressed concern that members who cast ballots on behalf of commercial entities were not asked for verification from the commercial entities as required by the company’s bylaws.

Melton asked JWC President Gregrey Ginyard from the floor if members were allowed to “just show up and say they are casting the ballot for a church or company without some verification from the commercial entity?”

“That’s been taken care of,” Ginyard said. “We have an attorney here, and that’s been taken care of.”

But the issue did not appear to be entirely resolved when at least some members requesting ballots to cast votes for commercial entities were not asked for verification supplied by the commercial entities. Instead, they were allowed to offer only self-verification, with their own signature, that they had been authorized to vote for the commercial entity. Instead, those members were allowed to self-verify, on the strength of their notarized signatures, that they had been authorized to vote for the commercial entity. The Board’s attorney notarized the signatures on the self-verified forms, and told The Voice that the notarized form was sufficient.

Shortly after the meeting opened, Ginyard called for approval of the minutes. When it was discovered that there were no minutes, Ginyard suggested tabling their approval until they could be found, which did not happen during the meeting.

Other issues causing angst boiled over during public comment time.

After CPA Yvette Jones reviewed the company’s annual financial report, Ginyard was asked by a member in the audience about the reported $8,089 in travel expenses.

“That’s mileage for driving to the law firm, to the bank to make deposits and things like that,” Jones explained.

Ginyard added that some of the mileage is from trips to meetings.

“Who is this being paid to?” member Billy Hendrix asked.

“To Mr. Ginyard,” Jones replied.

Asked by Hendrix if any disciplinary action had been taken by the company last year when Ginyard reported to the Sheriff’s Office that $10,000 in water receipts had been stolen after he had left it in his unlocked pickup truck overnight, Board member Julie Brendall quickly came to Ginyard’s defense.

“That was a mistake,” Brendall said.

“We made a police report, but it was taken out of the truck,” Ginyard said.

Another point of contention erupted into noisy pushback after Board members seeking re-election were allowed to give lengthy campaign speeches, but shouted down member Bertha Goins as she introduced Tony Taffer who had been nominated from the audience for Peach’s seat.

The voting process itself was marred as voters roamed around the room as the votes were being collected in the president’s hat by a company employee, making it difficult to determine who had already voted and who had not.

When Ginyard was nominated for another term during the first round of nominations, another Board member called for the nominations to close. Again, the audience shouted down the Board until a second nomination was allowed.

After the ballots were collected, they were given to the Board’s attorney, Jeff Goodwyn, who took them to a small table in the corner at the front of the room, shielding the ballots from the audience as he counted and piling them into two stacks. Later, Melton and a Deputy Sheriff approached Goodwyn’s ballot table to observe the count.

Of the five Board members seeking re-election, only Tim Roseborough was unopposed by the audience and retained his seat without a battle. No vote was taken for that seat. The other four incumbents (Ginyard, Preston Peach, Joseph McBride and Tangee Jacobs) each received the same number of votes – 46, while the votes for those nominated from the audience ranged from 30 to 40 each. All Board members were re-seated.

(Next week, a report on Board member Preston Peach’s explanation to a raucous crowd of how the cost was covered for two letters and a JWC newsletter that he mailed to 800+ water members in envelopes with the Jenkinsville Water Company logo.)