Jim Cook Statement

Having spent considerable time on Orcas since 1970, I jumped at the chance to retire to Eastsound in 2012. Two years in, at the request of an old island friend, I joined the Funhouse Board. That Board was extremely light on Board experience, including myself. So we conducted mentor assisted training…3 times in 3 years. I became the Board President. Before long, we were tackling a $400k remodel of the Funhouse building, a project that would be completed on time and under budget.

Five years later I met Steve Smith and discovered that the Board of Eastsound Water was fraught with irregularities, if not outright financial malfeasance, bullying, and related organizational dysfunction. Though much of this mess was supposedly “resolved” through a legal agreement between the Board and its General Manager, it was intuitively clear to me that this kind of thing would not be resolved by covering it up, legally or otherwise. So, I decided to run. I decided it was time to see if I could make better what appeared to be a bad situation.

The election itself was embarrassingly amateurish. The Board elected 2 Directors when it actually had a requirement to elect 3 Directors. So, the Board “promoted” me, who received the third most votes, to the third Director position. Another Board member resigned, requiring the Board appoint another Director. During the appointment process, though I was recently elected, I was not allowed to vote. No reason was given. No explanation. This is how my tenure on the Board began. Not good.

Over the course of the last five months, I’ve witnessed a Board in complete disarray.

Someone(s) unknown decided it would be a good idea to have one of the newly-elected Directors, someone with NO Board experience, be the President of the Board. The new President’s lack of Board experience led to all manner of problems: disjointed and otherwise poorly-focused Board meetings; disrespectful, condescending behavior by the General Manager toward EWUA members attending meetings; and, an inability or unwillingness to address internal organizational distrust, leading to a near complete breakdown of the Board’s ability to conduct its business on behalf of EWUA members. 

One of the most egregious failures of the Board has been its inability to conduct a comprehensive review of the Bylaws, a central document describing the Board’s procedures, processes, and authorities. Clear attempts have been made to minimize or otherwise frustrate EWUA member input to the process and their subsequent review. The logic or intention behind many proposed changes to the Bylaws remain a mystery to some Board members. A lack of attention to detail failed to reveal the fact that past and current Bylaws have been in violation of the Articles of Incorporation for years. This is not the functioning of a healthy Board.

The EWUA is no longer a sleepy, little, country water provider. With approximately 1,000 members and $2.2 million in billings each year, EWUA is arguably a major utility on Orcas Island and should be run as professionally and transparently as possible. The workers laying pipe and making repairs are our everyday heroes and deserve every bit of our support. The Board, on the other hand, needs urgent remediation. Two other Board members and I have brought all these (and more) issues to the Board leadership. I personally sat down with the Board President twice in order to try and find a way to work together cooperatively. Our minority concerns have fallen on deaf ears.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.. I am pursuing a Recall of four EWUA Board members. This is for the betterment of the Membership. I do not believe the current Board majority sufficiently understands the severity of its problems nor do they have sufficient Board experience to solve them. We need new Board members. That’s YOU. We need qualified, dedicated members of the community to run for the EWUA Board. The time is now. We can fix this.