Tri-County Electric Cooperative terminated CEO Darryl Schriver in July. Now, the aftermath is playing out in court.
Tri-County is the third largest co-op in Texas, with more than 115,000 members in 16 counties, including Tarrant and Parker.
Schriver was terminated from his position July 28 after a “loss of confidence” in his capacity as CEO, according to Schriver’s lawsuit filed in Parker County District Court on Sept. 25.
Schriver sued the cooperative’s board of directors and chief financial officer, Melissa Watts, for $1 million in damages, alleging conspiracy, defamation and “discharge for refusing to commit an illegal act,” among other counts.
Watts and eight of the nine board members responded, denied the allegations and demanded proof for each one made. The defendants are asking the judge to dismiss the suit.
“Plaintiff Darryl Schriver … has filed this remarkably frivolous action, attempting to use the court system as a tool in his bungled strategy to distract from his own egregious financial misconduct against Defendant Tri-County Electric Co-op, Inc. (the “Co-op”) and falsely and maliciously attack others,” Watts’ attorneys wrote in an Oct. 20 motion requesting dismissal of the lawsuit.
Watts alleges Schriver used a co-op credit card on “Ebay binges” that included the purchase of personal items such as “Star Wars” collector pens, Oakley sunglasses and gold Montblanc and Cross pens. Schriver also spent thousands of dollars in co-op money on Texas Christian University football season tickets for himself and his family, Watts asserts.
Attorneys for Watts also allege Schriver fraudulently paid himself $50,000 by “brazenly creating a document and handwriting the signature of the Co-op’s Board Chairman to attempt to fraudulently push through a sizable and unauthorized payment,” according to the document.
Schriver’s lawyers describe him as a longtime employee of the cooperative who worked as CEO for six years and in the cooperative industry for more than two decades. In that time, Schriver’s attorneys say, there “has never been a hint or whisper of any misconduct.” He denies any misuse of credit cards or forging a signature for a bonus.
The lawsuit says Schriver had “excellent performance evaluations” and the board voted unanimously to pay him a $50,000 bonus and 5% merit raise. It also alleges that Schriver used the company credit card to purchase a $1,103.19 flight for his wife to accompany him on a business trip to a conference, but states that he sent a check to the board chair to clear the expense.
Schriver has yet to respond to Watts’ allegations in court. He is requesting a jury trial.
Members of the cooperative say they’re concerned about what this means for the future of their longtime electricity provider. Hundreds of Tri-County customers have been following the case through a Facebook group run by Stephen Rorai. Rorai, a customer of the cooperative since 2016, questions how it is possible that the board were not watching Schriver’s expenses more closely.
“The board was asleep at the wheel here,” Rorai said.
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Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @sbodine120.