Marietta: Burned by Cobb EMC’s holdovers

One thing that could be said of Dwight Brown, former CEO of Cobb Electric Membership Corp. and Cobb Energy who was re-indicted Thursday, is that he has an uncanny — some might say unseemly — ability to hang on.

In a June 24 ruling by Cobb Superior Court Judge J. Stephen Schuster, Brown can no longer lay claim to the CEO job at Cobb EMC, a position he tried to reacquire after retiring from it under a cloud in February.

EMC board members, whose terms have expired (the judge calls them “holdovers”), tried in vain to reinstate the former CEO. This after an 11-month executive search for a new CEO turned up no viable candidates, allegedly. Brown, according to the holdovers with straight faces, was the best qualified.

That he previously ran the co-op for the good of its members is disputed by the extensive record. Certainly, the members who filed a lawsuit in 2007 to expose several conflicts of interest and reclaim EMC assets it believed Cobb Energy had siphoned from it assert there is ample evidence Brown personally benefited as head of both power entities at the expense of the co-op.

An indictment of Brown in January 2011 got him arrested. With Roy Barnes arguing for Brown, a judge dismissed the indictment because the new courthouse was not open to the public, a true technicality.

Brown’s re-indictment this week brought the same 31 charges of “breach of fiduciary responsibility,” plus four new ones alleging that he intimidated witnesses.

The 2007 civil suit was settled in 2008. Cobb Energy was to “unwind” its various unprofitable business interests, return assets to Cobb EMC and hold fair and open elections. This is what a democracy does.

But during Schuster’s hearing to “disinstate” Brown, he warned the holdover board that foot-dragging would no longer be tolerated and ordered each member to return Aug. 12.

The problem with the board and Brown is not entirely legal. It’s one of perception. And the central perception causing this unwarranted delay in getting Cobb Energy unwound and holding fair elections is that these parties believe they have done nothing wrong.

For me, as a customer of Cobb EMC, this issue has been pretty perplexing. I and about 190,000 other customers received numerous newsletters over the years from the EMC board extolling its accomplishments. As the news began to come out, as told initially and then primarily by the AJC, my version of the facts had to be “unwound” from all those newsletters I had read.

The newsletters were misleading to say the least. We were told that Cobb Energy was profitable. It was not. We were not told that Cobb EMC was paying fees to Cobb Energy that ultimately equaled 11 percent.

We also were not told that Cobb EMC and Cobb Energy “forgave” millions of dollars in loans to Brown and his wife so they could buy preferred stock in Cobb Energy. This stock yielded the Browns hundreds of thousands of dollars in dividends, while they failed to pay one dime in dividends to co-op members from Cobb Energy common stock, which they had the option to do.

If you can be lied to you can be fooled. And if you can be fooled you can be ripped off. I feel ripped off. I don’t necessarily want anyone to go to jail. But I want to hear no more of Brown or his holdover cronies after democracy prevails at Cobb EMC.

Craig Allen lives in Marietta. Reach him at