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Valley Electric names interim CEO after predecessor arrested

Updated March 4, 2019 - 6:07 pm

An interim CEO took the helm of Valley Electric Association Monday, following CEO Angela Evans’ arrest and placement on administrative leave last week.

Richard Peck, the owner of Kenai, Alaska-based management consulting and renewable energy business Utility Innovations Plus, said he’s looking forward to bringing “peace and tranquility” to the Pahrump-based electric utility and the cooperative’s roughly 17,500 members.

Peck’s appointment comes amid a series of allegations toward the cooperative including sexual harassment, financial cover-ups and embezzlement.

A problem-solver

Evans was placed on administrative leave by the cooperative’s board Feb. 26, shortly after she was arrested on suspicion of embezzlement. She met $5,000 bail later that night.

The Nye County Sheriff’s Office reported officers found electronic records that identified $75,000 worth of work on Evans’ property was billed to Valley Electric. A statement from the sheriff’s office said Evans told officers she paid for the work, but “if she did not, then she would fix it.”

Evans’ arrest came shortly after allegations emerged that rate hikes for the utility might have stemmed from former CEO Tom Husted’s use of the cooperative’s money to pay for a sexual harassment cover-up, according to a search warrant from the sheriff’s office. Valley Electric’s board denied the financial cover-up allegations.

Peck said the utility’s laundry list of allegations was an incentive, not a deterrent, to accept the position.

“I’m a fixer,” he said. “If you’ve got problems or issues, I know how to take care of business. I’m used to helping utilities out that have a lot of difficulties.”

Here for a while

Valley Electric board Chairman Ken Derschan named Chief Financial Officer Steve Morrison as acting chief executive shortly after Evans’ arrest.

Michael Hengel, Valley Electric’s executive vice president of corporate communications, said the cooperative’s policy gave the six-person board 10 days to name an interim chief executive.

“According to our policy, we have to have somebody leading the cooperative at all times,” Hengel said. Hengel is a former editor in chief of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Morrison will return to his role as CFO. A statement from Valley Electric said Peck will serve as interim chief executive “until further notice.”

“(I’m here) as long as they need me,” Peck said.

Hengel said there’s currently not an ongoing search for a permanent chief executive. He said there is an internal investigation being conducted by an independent third-party firm regarding the allegations against Evans.

Peck’s career history

Peck entered the public power space in 1969 in Homer, Alaska.

In 2012, he joined Beartooth Electric Cooperative in Montana as interim general manager to assist with “organizational financial issues,” according to a statement from Valley Electric. While there, he developed a management agreement with Lower Valley Energy, a Wyoming-based cooperative.

Three years later, he returned to Alaska to continue his consulting business.

He has spent 24 years as CEO of rural utilities in the West and four years working in international consulting in South America and Southeast Asia.

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

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