Grady EMC attorneys seek to settle following recent court ruling
for Stuckey has
The board of directors of the Grady Electric Membership Corporation held a special called meeting Friday morning in response to a recent court order that declared the election of former District 5 board member Earl Stuckey invalid.
Grady EMC has removed Stuckey’s photograph and contact information from its website and due to the holidays The Messenger was unable to contact EMC officials for response to the ruling by Senior Superior Court Judge H. Arthur McLane filed in Grady Superior Court Dec. 13.
Judge McLane ruled in favor of Grady EMC director B. Hestell Donaldson Jr.’s complaint for declaratory judgment, which he filed individually and as a member of the Grady EMC board.
Donaldson’s suit challenged the eligibility of Stuckey to serve on the EMC board and action taken by the EMC board on Sept. 7, 2016, to revise the co-op’s bylaws to change the definition of “close relative.”
Donaldson alleges and the court agreed that the bylaws were changed to permit Stuckey to qualify as a board member even though his nephew, James Stuckey, had been hired by Grady EMC two weeks prior to Stuckey’s nomination.
Prior to the EMC board’s action two years ago, the definition of “close relative” included an “uncle/nephew” relationship. In the court order filed last week, Judge McLane states, “Without the deletion of an uncle/nephew relationship being deemed a close relationship, Defendant Stuckey would have been ineligible to serve on the Board of Directors of GEMC as long as his nephew was employed by GEMC.”
The judge further ruled, “The Board of Directors of GEMC does not have the power or authority to alter or amend the by-laws of GEMC directly relating to the election of the members of the Board of Directors; that authority is reserved to the members.”
The court contends the board’s action to modify the bylaws made it possible for Stuckey to be a qualified candidate for the board.
Cairo attorney Thomas L. Lehman, who represented Donaldson in the suit against Stuckey and the EMC, said Friday that attorney Tyler Bishop, who is representing Grady EMC in the matter, had contacted him wishing to discuss a settlement after Lehman put the EMC on notice that he intended to seek attorney’s fees in the matter. Lehman says that Bishop hinted at the possibility of an appeal of Judge McLane’s ruling if a settlement could not be reached.
Judge McLanes’s ruling also calls into question any actions by the Grady EMC board where Stuckey’s vote was the determining vote in split vote decisions by the board, according to Lehman.
This is the second director who has been forced off of the Grady EMC board this year.
In September, the board voted 4-2 to remove EMC director Gordon Clyatt after allegations of his qualifications to serve were raised by EMC Chairman Earl Stuckey and EMC attorney Claire Chason. According to Stuckey and Chason, Clyatt ceased to be eligible to serve as a director of Grady EMC when he “removed himself from the membership account of his primary residential abode” and put the service in the name of his wife.
James Hammett was elected by the board to serve the remainder of Clyatt’s term. Unless the court order in the Donaldson suit is appealed, it is likely the board will have to elect a replacement for Chairman Stuckey.
According to Lehman, the EMC board did not name a successor to Stuckey at the called meeting Friday.