EXTRAS

This page is dedicated to "extras" posted online, emailed, etc from Members of CWP Accountability Group.  


 

Crow Wing Power remains under fire by opposition

  • By Jennifer Eisenbart Aitkin Independent Age jeisenbart@aitkinage.com  - May 5, 2020

Group is organizing to try and elect new board members to change ’transparency’ issues

A long and bitter battle between Crow Wing Power Cooperative and at least one member of its board of directors has taken a new turn.

Recently, board member Bryan McCulloch took to Facebook to defend his stance against CWP CEO Bruce Kraemer, and now there is an organized effort to try and elect new members to the Board of Directors.

In recent weeks, Tim Quincer – who is helping organize the opposition to the current CWP Board of Directors – sent out a press release announcing a volunteer task force to elect three specific members to the CWP board

A Facebook page called “CWP Accountability” has been created as well. Ballots for the annual election are scheduled to be mailed to cooperative members in mid-May according the Char Kinzer, Crow Wing Power public relations manager. Election results, normally announced at the annual meeting, will be announced June 12 as the annual meeting has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Results will be posted on the cooperative’s website at cwpower.com.

The current board is comprised of nine members with three members elected to three-year terms each year. Board members represent all of the power company’s service areas. Members vote for candidates from all districts regardless of which district they reside in.

The move to replace board members stems from an issue that came to light last year about payments to board members for their work with Hunt Technologies through 2006. The company, which made meters for CWP, was close to bankruptcy, and Kraemer took over that company and ran it in lieu of them hiring a CEO. Kinzer said that Kraemer received no salary for the six years of work, and the Board of Directors did not receive pay outside the $5,000 a year the members were already earning.

In an article in the Morrison County Record in May of 2019, CWP Board of Directors president Bob Kangas sent a letter to the media, explaining that board members were offered a bonus of $70,000 per member for their six years of work with Hunt Technologies, when the business was sold.

Two of the board members did not take the bonus, according to Kinzer. The bonuses came about when Hunt Technologies was sold for $129 million total – with a net profit to CWP of $42 million – in 2006. Kinzer said that Kraemer was contracted to receive 1.5% of the gross sale, which turned into $1.9 million, “which was much larger than anyone anticipated,” she said.

Kinzer said that $12 million of that was returned in capital credit checks to members, while just over $5 million was used to clear some property as well as address some building work. The rest, Kinzer said, was saved for a future investment.

That investment turned out to be a manganese mine in Emily, which Kinzer said is an investment to make money for the cooperative and the area. Quincer and other members disagree with that statement, and McCulloch has gone on record saying he will not sign non-disclosure agreements discussing the mine because he feels it doesn’t allow for proper communication with members.

As a result, McCulloch has not been able to partake in the discussions, he said.

It was 13 years from the point where the bonuses were paid until the story broke in both the Brainerd Dispatch and the Star-Tribune last spring and summer. The dispute between parties has been ongoing now for months, with both sides claiming the right side of the law. McCulloch and his supporters say that the matter has been brought to the attorney of the state attorney general’s office, while Kinzer says that the cooperative has not done anything wrong.

Quincer said members involved with the pursuit of action by the attorney general’s office have made it sound like action might be coming, but it’s unsure when or how. In the meantime, Quincer said he and others in the co-op are working to replace board members and increase transparency.

“They’re being compensated, outrageously, for a non-profit,” Quincer said, adding that tax returns from 2018 show executives making hundreds of thousands of dollars. “We’re also a little concerned about our electric rates.”

McCulloch said in his online post that members of the cooperative voted last June to require more transparency. Included in that was a request for a forensic audit of the cooperative, which has not been done.

Kinzer, meanwhile, speaking for the cooperative said, “we have been extremely forthright where we can be,” publishing board and meeting minutes.

“We’ve been trying to be much more open,” she said, adding that the Emily manganese mine discussions involve potential proprietary information with a for-profit company and can’t be discussed publicly.

“The manganese mine, we can’t be really open with,” she said, adding that North Star Manganese required the non-disclosure agreements in order for negotiations to move forward.

Crow Wing Power Co-op serves mostly members in Crow Wing County, with members in Aitkin, Morrison and Cass counties.


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Letter to the Editor from John Ward

Have you ever wanted to change something? Most of us have done a lot of that in our lives. The upcoming Crow Wing Power Board Elections are coming up and we definitely need some changes there.

There continue to be lots of questions at CWP. Does the upcoming mining project have individual royalties for anyone? Are there Non Disclosure Agreements (NDA) being offered for
hush agreements? Why are long term, faithful employees being pushed out? Why are there still parts of the monthly meetings closed to folks, including one board member? Why don’t the minutes have ALL the information from the meetings?

These three folks; Bryan McCulloch, Gary Bakken and Loren Beilke, have promised to get answers. Please vote for them in the upcoming election. You can and should vote in ALL
districts, not just yours.

Let’s bring trust, transparency, oversight and futuristic planning back to Crow Wing Power.

Respectfully,
John Ward
11442 Forestview Drive
Baxter, MN 56425
218-838-7335



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IMPORTANT NOTE from CWP Accountability Group Director/ Member, Tim Quincer

At last year’s annual Crow Wing Power meeting, member/owners of the co-op voted to ask the board to remove CEO Kraemer after he tried to justify taking 1.9 million dollars of our money.  We also voted to direct the board to conduct a forensic audit; questioned management on the lucrative Emily manganese mine royalty agreements granted to Kraemer and executives; and heard them say they would work to improve transparency. 

Nearly a year later, the board has not removed the CEO, taken no action on an audit, and taken no action to address the royalty agreements! 
Let me give you a personal example of how they have approached the transparency request. 

Contrary to assurances at the annual meeting, the CWP tax return for the year of the Hunt Technologies sale is NOT available to members.   Their explanation—due to the Hunt sale and large profit that year, they couldn’t file as a non-profit, and had to file a corporation return. 
Non-profits are required to make their tax returns public.  Crow Wing Power is a non-profit utility—its members are its owners. 

As for corporate returns? I asked to be provided a copy of that tax return—I am a CWP member--they REFUSED.

The board discussed my request and took a vote on allowing me to visit CWP offices and view the return. That was allowed with conditions—I had to be supervised while viewing the return, and I could not take pictures of or take notes while viewing the return.

One board member—Gert Roggenkamp, who happens to be up for election this year and is one of the board members who took $70,000 from the Hunt Sale—actually voted to deny me the ability to view the return! 

And what did I find when viewing the return?  There was no mention of the money CEO Kraemer and most board members took from the Hunt sale at all.   In fact, that personal profiting has not been noted in subsequent tax returns either.
 
It should be clear by now—the current board will not take the action the members have asked them to, and we must elect board members committed to doing so. 


The CWP Accountability group (see www.cwpaccountabilitygroup.com) is promoting 3 candidates who will work for the change that members have asked for:  Bryan McCulloch, Gary Bakken, and Loren Bielke. 

Tim Quincer
(218) 821-7125



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Brainerd Dispatch - Reader Opinion April 23, 2020

 

https://www.brainerddispatch.com/opinion/letters/5939442-Reader-Opinion-Get-the-facts


The current Crow Wing Power newsletter states there is a “small group of people” raising questions about the operation at Crow Wing Power. It states to please call them, 218-829-2827, to ask your questions or voice your concerns. Let me be clear, a majority of the folks working at and managing Crow Wing Power are hard-working people that truly care about the members they serve. However, facts indicate there have been and are some bad apples who are more interested in their own pocket books rather than investing back in the company's future and the best interests of its members.

To get factual information on what has gone on over the years with our, the members, profits from past, current and future investments, please visit the following sites which will give much more detail into many questionable practices of the folks in charge of running the co-op for its members. Here are the website addresses for you to check out -- cwpaccountabilitygroup.com and cwptruth.com. Also, please check out the CWP Accountability Group’s Facebook page for more information.

Once you have gathered your information, please do what the newsletter asks members to do and call Crow Wing Power to voice your concerns and questions. Also, the ballots for the Crow Wing Power Board will soon be sent out. Since it has been decided the annual meeting will be cancelled, rather than postponed like it should have been, it is imperative to mail your ballot in. Please do your homework and see which candidates running have promised to bring trust, transparency and justice back to Crow Wing Power and its members. Members can and should vote in all districts, not just the one they live in.

John Ward

Baxter


 

*|END:WEB_VIDEO|*

***This Article was posted on CWPTruth.com***
Owner of Emily Mine - CWP CEO Royalties Exist

Message Posted 4/16/2020

The Carlton Group statement is as follows:

 

"The Royalty Agreement between Crow Wing Power and the Carlton Group is in full force and contractual to all those involved. This bona fide contract can only be amended with everyone's signed approval.  As of today's date, there have been no changes proposed or accepted."

 

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Sept 2018 Bruce Kraemer CEO - denied that the Agreement was binding stating that "when the bore hole mining failed the Royalty agreement went away. I never got a penny and never will."

March 2019 Paul Johnson CWP Legal "Royalty agreement is Legal and Binding"

June 2019 Bruce Kraemer states and annual meeting "Agreement went away with the failure of Bore Hole drilling at Mine, Maybe someone will benefit, but I will be long gone before that happens"

April 2020 Carlton Group Legal "there have been no changes proposed"

Bruce Kraemer Royalty agreement exist and does not cancel when he leaves CWP or this Earth. The Kraemer family may draw off this Royalty for 30 years.



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News Release that will be posted in all the local newspapers before May 1, 2020

 

Volunteer task force launches campaign
to elect member focused Crow Wing  Power  Board

 

Citing a trail of secret payouts and secret meetings, a volunteer group of over 100 lakes area people have launched a campaign to elect three Crow wing Power Co-op board members.
Crow Wing Power was established in 1937 and started serving the Brainerd lakes area in 1938. As a registered Minnesota cooperative its original mission was to provide reliable and low cost power to the lakes area, with income in excess of operating expenses   (capital credits) returned to member-users.
 
CWP Accountability Group LLC  has created a Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/CWPAccountabilityGroup  and website,  www.cwpaccountabilitygroup.com outlining and documenting past actions of Crow Wing Power that have resulted in millions of dollars of secret payouts to the CEO and current and past board members. The website includes links to newspaper articles and videos detailing the actions within the co-op.
 
The goal of this group is to elect board members who will end the co-op culture of insider deals, secret meetings and secret payouts. The candidates endorsed by the group have also pledged to work toward lower electric rates and the return of money to co-op members in the form of capital credits. “Capital credits are a form of dividend that should be paid to power users annually; the cooperative is 26 years behind in making these payments”, explained Dave Winkelman one of the groups founding members.

Tim Quincer, another original member  of the task force,  pointed out that last year it was revealed    that following the sale of an affiliated company, current CEO  Bruce Kramer pocketed a  1.9 million dollar bonus and at the same time board members voted themselves a $70,000 bonus . All of these actions were kept secret from the nearly 38,000 co-op members.

According to a newspaper article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune published on August  18, 2018 in 2008 the co-op entered the mining business “an unusual move for an electric cooperative.”  The power company invested over 24 million dollars in what has failed to become a viable investment.  It was revealed last year that the cooperative CEO and several other executives had entered into a secret agreement that would have rewarded them with millions in royalty payments had the mine started operating.

The CWP Accountability Group has endorsed three candidates for the 3 board seats up for election.

Bryan McCulloch, an incumbent board member from the Fifty Lakes –Emily area serves District 1 as an at-large  representative. In the past he has been instrumental in reporting the insider dealings at the cooperative and has discussed problems with the Minnesota attorney general’s staff.  McCulloch has repeatedly refused to sign non-disclosure agreements designed to keep  co-op business secret.

Gary Bakken, a 30 year resident of Breezy Point, Navy veteran and current city council member is running against incumbent Gert  Roggenkamp in District 2B. Bakken has worked tirelessly for several years in an effort to make members aware of the problems at Crow wing Power.   Roggenkamp is one of two remaining power company board members who pocketed a secret $70,000 payout and has repeatedly sided with management in keeping company business secret and approving questionable transactions.

Loren Beilke is a Brainerd area small business owner with past experience in the electrical power business.  Beilke has a BA in physics and a masters degree in manufacturing engineering from the University of St. Thomas.  He is challenging long time board member, Dwight Thiesse in district 3A, the district encompasses the south east portion of the Crow Wing Power service area.

Thiesse has said he did not take the secret $70,000 payment. However he approved of the payouts and helped keep them secret. He has also repeatedly sided with management in efforts to keep business dealings hidden from members.
 The current board is comprised of nine members with 3 members elected to three year terms each year. Board members represent all of the power company’s service areas.   Members vote for candidates from all districts regardless of which district they reside in.

 Ballots for the annual election are scheduled to be mailed to cooperative  members in mid- May according the Char Kinzer, Crow Wing Power public relations manager.  Kinzer is also editor of the company newsletter, which this week published an article accusing the CWP Accountability Group of  “trying to disrupt the cooperative”.

Election results will be announced on the date of the annual meeting, currently slated for Saturday June 13.     
                    


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Brainerd Dispatch - Reader Opinion April 16, 2020 by Shawn Marie Brummer


If you make your electricity payment to Crow Wing Power, I hope you’re paying attention to what’s been going on for the past several years. Each household that gets their electricity from this cooperative is a part owner. Cooperative principles state that any profits made are to be returned to the members. That hasn’t been happening.

Hiding behind closed-door meetings and non-disclosure agreements, the CEO and several board members have been personally profiting from our cooperative. When this information was made public by board member Bryan McCulloch, members showed up for the 2019 annual meeting and voted to remove the CEO and conduct an audit. However, we couldn’t get a majority of the board to act, perhaps because several of them are complicit.

There is a group of concerned members that formed as a result. This is the CWP Accountability Group. Its goals are simple: Change the leadership and bring justice to individuals who demonstrated what we believe is fraudulent behavior; conduct an audit and provide reimbursement of funds; and nullify all self-enriching CWP management and board royalty agreements. This group can be found on Facebook or with a Google search.

This month’s newsletter from Crow Wing Power dismisses the Accountability Group as disruptive and encourages you to call the cooperative if you have questions. I tell you, this is like having your house burglarized and then calling the thief to ask what happened. Please explore the group’s website and Facebook page and make your own decision. There are candidates running in the next board election committed to acting in the best interest of the members, so please vote. It’s our cooperative; it’s our money. Crow Wing Power has done many good things for our community. How much more could be accomplished if money taken by executives was returned?


 

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Email from John Ward, Former State Representative, to Area Legislators and Leadership

Former State Representative John Ward here. First, thank you for everything you are all doing during these difficult and trying times. I hope you are all doing well and staying safe. I have a request from all of you that is a very important and troubling issue in our area. Crow Wing Power Co-Op, our local area electrical co-op, has been suspected of many unscrupulous, fraudulent and criminal business activities over the past several years. There have been many allegations of wrong doings by the CEO and some of the past/current Board members. Some Federal and State enforcement agencies have been notified of these allegations and their are some investigations going on around these activities. The MN Attorney General’s office is one if these agencies looking into the allegations. There is a Co-Op annual meeting and board election coming up in June. I am affiliated with a group called The Crow Wing Power Accountability Group. We are a group of Co-Op member, some of who are past and current Federal, State and Local elected officials, who are trying to bring trust, justice and transparency to the Co-Op organization. You can learn more about our group and our goals by going to 
www.cwpaccountabilitygroup.com. Members of our group have been working with the enforcement agencies involved. I know that all of you as State Legislators, have clout with State Agencies. We are asking you to please check with the Attorney General’s Office to see if their investigation could be accelerated. We also would like a forensic audit to be done to find some missing dollars with some of the business transactions. I have posted a current Board members testimony at the end of this email so you can read first hand what has been going on. 

I/We want to thank you in advance for your time and consideration on this issue. I know how busy you are and how stressful these times are. If I or any of our group could be of further assistance to you in this matter, please let me know. Thank you for your service and please take care of yourselves.



 

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Email from John Ward, Former State Representative, to Attorney General Ellison and Staff

Former State Representative John Ward here. I hope you are all doing well and staying safe during these difficult and stressful times. I am writing you to give you some more information and to see how your investigation into Crow Wing Power Electric CO-OP’s fraudulent, unscrupulous and criminal business actions is going. At the bottom of this email I am also going to paste a recent article by one of the current Board members about his findings of what has and continues to go on. The coop is having their annual meeting and Board elections in June and we hoping that the members hear something from your office by then. I understand that privacy is a priority for your agency, but we really need your help to bring these folks to justice and return trust and transparency to the organization. We also hope you are still considering having a forensic audit done to find the missing money from several business transactions. We have a group of respectful, concerned, solid citizens who are doing all we can to bring this issue to a resolution. Please check our group out by going to 
www.cwpaccountabilitygroup.com. If our group can be of further service to you, please let us know. Thank you for your service and for helping our 38,000 members receive justice and retribution. 

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13021 Evergreen Drive
Baxter, MN 56425



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