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While Beartooth Electric Cooperative members ousted three incumbent trustees at its annual meeting last Saturday, the fate of two other trustees facing a recall petition is expected to be decided soon.

“We expect to handle this most expeditiously,” said Roxie Melton, BEC’s new board president from Boyd, on Monday.

“Technically, we have not really had an opportunity to address this yet,” she said.

In addition to electing new trustees, BEC members passed bylaw changes, including a provision that will allow voting by mail. Melton said she will need to talk to legal counsel to determine which bylaws apply to the recall effort.

One of the new board’s goals, Melton said, is to act as quickly as possible on member requests and to keep communication lines open. “That is our number one thing,” she said.

The membership elected Melton as president, replacing John Prinkki, of Red Lodge. Prinkki and Trustee Joe Kern, who represents the Fishtail and Nye area and is the assistant secretary/treasurer, were not up for election but are facing a recall drive by Fix BEC. The BEC board has seven trustees.

Fix BEC is a group of cooperative members that campaigned to replace all trustees who supported the controversial Highwood Generating Station. Highwood is a power plant built near Great Falls by Southern Montana Electric, the umbrella cooperative that supplies power to Beartooth, four other cooperatives and the city of Great Falls.

The group also was upset with a series of rate increases and supported more board transparency.

Prinkki, Kern and the three incumbent trustees who lost the election, Martin Kimmet, of Cody, Wyo., Lance Million, of Roberts, and Allen Nordahl, of Molt, also voted to authorize an additional $300 million to build Phase II of the Highwood plant.

Melton said the board received the recall petitions on Sept. 23, the day before the annual meeting. Fix BEC has asked for an independent third party to verify the signatures, she said.

If there are enough signatures, then the next step will be for the members to vote on whether to retain or recall Prinkki and Kern. The bylaws give trustees facing recall and the petitioners an opportunity to make their case to members at a meeting, Melton said. Any vacancy created by a removal may be filled by a vote of the members at such meeting.

BEC’s bylaws say that members can recall a board trustee with a petition signed by at least 10 percent of the membership or 300 signatures, whichever is the lesser.

Dick Nolan, a Fix BEC organizer from the Luther area, is confident the group has enough signatures.

“We turned in 360-plus signatures on a petition that required only 300,” he said on Monday.

In addition to the 364 signatures on the petition, Fix BEC collected another 44 signatures before Saturday’s meeting, he said.

The request for a third party to verify the signatures reflected management under the old board, Nolan said. “We just didn’t trust it. We just want to be confident,” he said.

Contact Clair Johnson at cjohnson@billingsgazette.com or 657-1282.

Contact Clair Johnson at cjohnson@billingsgazette.com or 657-1282.

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