After an ongoing argument over the reinvestment of funds, the Crow Wing Power Cooperative’s Board of Directors membership did not change in its recent election.
Incumbents Bryan McCulloch – one of the sources of the complaints against CWP – was reelected to his District 1 At-Large position, while Gert Roggenkamp was reelected in District 2B and Dwight Thiesse in District 3A.
While McCulloch easily won his seat with 47.6% of the vote (3,765 to 1,939 from closest challenger Darrell Shannon), the other two races were closer. Roggenkamp edged out closest challenger Gary Bakken 2,739 to 2,391 votes, while Thiesse had 3,345 votes compared to closest challenger Loren Beilke’s 3,185.
Earlier in the year – and last year as well – McCulloch leveled allegations against CWP CEO Bruce Kraemer.
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. Char Kinzer, who handles PR for CWP, 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. Tim Quincer and other board 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 said that the matter has been brought to the attorney of the state attorney general’s office, while Kinzer said that the cooperative has not done anything wrong.