Cops and Electric Department Director Easley descend on community activist Fenn, leaving him without electricity and in the cold

by Kathleen Sloan | December 10, 2020
6 min read
Ron Fenn led a petition drive garnering 264 signatures that should have triggered a public vote on a proposed ordinance calling for a 10-year moratorium on smart meter installations. But last January the city commission voted to deny the required special election. Photograph courtesy of Ron Fenn

Ron Fenn was left without heat, lights and hot water after Truth or Consequences Electric Department Director Bo Easley and employee Ken Mahon, as well as city police officers Blomquest and Frazer came to his home to remove his electric meter Dec. 9.

Two weeks earlier, Fenn, soon to be 77, had refused access to his home at 316 N. Foch St., when an electric department employee arrived to install a smart meter.

The next day, Nov. 25, Easley came to Fenn’s home to deliver a form letter signed by City Manager Morris Madrid. The letter stated Fenn had 15 days to contact the city and allow a smart meter to be installed “without obstruction.” Otherwise, the letter informed Fenn, who had led a petition drive to place a 10-year moratorium on smart meters because of health and safety concerns, the city would “immediately disconnect electric service.”

Madrid’s letter enclosed a copy of city code 14-30, which provides for an appeal process.

City code 14-30 (e) states: “Any person disputing a disconnect notice or other action related to utility service will be provided a reasonable opportunity to appeal within the department, then to the City Manager, and if dissatisfied with the City Manager’s decision, to the City Commission in accordance with written procedures established by the Electric Department.”

Fenn had emailed the city on Dec. 8—within the 15-day timeframe—that he was appealing the Electric Department’s decision to remove his current analog meter. He delivered a paper version the next day to the city clerk, which was date-stamped.

In removing Fenn’s meter, which disconnected his electrical service, the city denied Fenn his right to due process.

Easley erroneously informed Fenn Dec. 9 was “the 15th day” since Fenn had received Madrid’s letter, but Easley’s arrival with police escort to remove the meter was at least one day premature (click on video to view the initial few moments of the confrontation). Easley did not respond to the Sun’s request that he address Fenn’s documented contact with the city within the allotted timeframe or Fenn’s right to appeal the electric department decision.

The two police officers telephoned Madrid while on the scene, Fenn said, and Madrid confirmed the meter should be removed then and there.

Fenn’s neighbor, Carolyn Eastman Cazares, was similarly confronted by Easley in late November. Like Fenn, Cazares, who told the Sun she is 80, turned away the city’s smart meter installer. The next day, Easley, who appears to be about 6 feet, 3 inches tall and 250 pounds, came to her door. He delivered the 15-day letter and advised her that she could have the smart meter installed or have her electricity cut off.

Unaware of her right to appeal, Cazares acquiesced within 15 days and had the smart meter installed.

Both Fenn and Cazares told the Sun they don’t want smart meters primarily because the devices work on high-impulse radio frequency waves that are suspected to cause cancer.

“RF radiation is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), as ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans,’” the American Cancer Society website states. “This is based on the finding of a possible link in at least one study between cell phone use and a specific type of brain tumor. Because RF radiation is a possible carcinogen, and smart meters give off RF radiation, it is possible that smart meters could increase cancer risk. Still, it isn’t clear what risk, if any there might be from living in a home with a smart meter.”

Fenn informed Easley to no avail he was a cancer survivor and, as such, may be more susceptible to RF radiation. Fenn’s suspicions are echoed by the American Cancer Society.

 “While RF exposure might not cause cancer directly, concern has been voiced that cells in the body that have been damaged by exposure to some other substance might somehow be more likely to become cancerous when exposed to RF waves,” the society’s website states. “In theory, this might be a concern for cancer patients being treated with ionizing radiation and/or medicines that might cause cancer themselves. Animal studies have not shown evidence of this and this effect has not been studied in people.”

The World Health Organization has agreed to study the effects of RF radiation, according to the society’s website, but the study is incomplete.

Cazares told the Sun Easley said he “guaranteed” the smart meters posed no health threat. When she asked Easley to put his guarantee in writing, he replied: “What, you don’t trust me?”

The Sun asked Easley if he would provide electric customers with a written guarantee the smart meters will not cause health issues, fires or increase data-breach security for electric customers—concerns raised by communities with smart meters that have been detailed in multiple news articles. Easley did not respond by press time.

The Sun asked all five city commissioners, City Attorney Jay Rubin and Manager Madrid if the city’s appeals process is being denied for the smart-meter installations, but none of them responded by press time.

Commissioner Randall Aragon did email Fenn today with the city’s dismissive response to Fenn’s due process appeal. The email read:

“Dear Ron, I realize this will dishearten you; however, because this matter is pending litigation I have been advised to refrain from discussing this issue with you. 

“I was advised by Mr. Madrid that I may convey the following to you:  

“’We did attempt again to connect Mr. Fenn’s electric service. He is not being disconnected. He is not allowing us to provide service. We will try again tomorrow. It’s by his choice and action that he does not have service.’”

“Consequently, until I am advised otherwise I must abide by what is aforementioned.”

Fenn, a long-time community activist, led a petition drive garnering 264 signatures that should have triggered a public vote on a proposed ordinance calling for a 10-year moratorium on smart meter installations. The moratorium would give time for definitive research on their possible health and safety threats to be completed.

The city’s commission-manager form of government is supposed to allow “initiative ordinances,” that is, laws proposed by local residents. Last January the city commission voted to ignore Fenn’s moratorium ordinance, claiming the decision to install smart meters was an administrative decision and, as such, not subject to referendum by the people.

In early February 2020 Fenn, with financial support from Riverbend Hot Springs owner Lee Foerstner, filed a lawsuit in district court that argues the city commission violated state law 3-14-18, which allows initiative ordinances. The district court has yet to set a date for a hearing.

Editor’s Note: Full disclosure: Ron Fenn is the Sun’s staff photographer.

Corrections: This story has been updated to correct the misspelling of Carolyn Eastman Cazares’s name and to correct the description of Lee Foerstner’s role in Fenn’s district court lawsuit.

Kathleen Sloan is the Sun’s founder and chief reporter. She can be reached at or 575-297-4146.
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Understanding New Mexico's proposed new social studies standards for K-12 students

“The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.”
—National Council for the Social Studies 

Reader Michael L. Hayes of Las Cruces commented: What impresses me is that both the proposed standards and some of the criticisms of them are equally grotesque. I make this bold statement on the basis of my experience as a peripatetic high school and college English teacher for 45 years in many states with many students differing in race, religion, gender and socioeconomic background, and as a civic activist (PTA) in public education (My career, however, was as an independent consultant mainly in defense, energy and the environment.)

The proposed social studies standards are conceptually and instructionally flawed. For starters, a “performance standard” is not a standard at all; it is a task. Asking someone to explain something is not unlike asking someone to water the lawn. Nothing measures the performance, but without a measure, there is no standard. The teacher’s subjective judgment will be all that matters, and almost anything will count as satisfying a “performance standard,” even just trying. Students will be left to wonder “what is on the teacher’s mind?” or “have I sucked up enough.”

Four other quick criticisms of the performance standards. One, they are nearly unintelligible because they are written in jargon. PED’s use of jargon in a document intended for the public is worrisome. Bureaucrats often use jargon to confuse or conceal something uninformed, wrong or unworthy. As a result, most parents, some school board members and more than a few teachers do not understand them.

Two, the performance standards are so vague that they fail to define the education which teachers are supposed to teach, students are supposed to learn, and parents are supposed to understand. PED does not define words like “explain” or “describe” so that teachers can apply “standards” consistently and fairly. The standards do not indicate what teachers are supposed to know in order to teach or specify what students are supposed to learn. Supervisors cannot know whether teachers are teaching social studies well or poorly. The standards are so vague that the public, especially parents or guardians, cannot know the content of public education.

Three, many performance standards are simply unrealistic, especially at grade level. Under “Ethnic, Cultural and Identity Performance Standards”; then under “Diversity and Identity”; then under “Kindergarten,” one such standard is: “Identify how their family does things both the same as and different from how other people do things.” Do six-year-olds know how other people do things? Do they know whether these things are relevant to diversity and identity? Or another standard: “Describe their family history, culture, and past to current contributions of people in their main identity groups.” (A proficient writer would have hyphenated the compound adjective to avoid confusing the reader.) Do six-year-olds know so much about these things in relation to their “identity group”? Since teachers obviously do not teach them about these other people and have not taught them about these groups, why are these and similar items in the curriculum; or do teachers assign them to go home and collect this information?

Point four follows from “three”; some information relevant to some performance measures requires a disclosure of personal or family matters. The younger the students, the easier it is for teachers to invade their privacy and not only their privacy, but also the privacy of their parents or guardians, or neighbors, who may never be aware of these disclosures or not become aware of them until afterward. PED has no right to design a curriculum which requires teachers to ask students for information about themselves, parents or guardians, or neighbors, or puts teachers on the spot if the disclosures reveal criminal conduct. (Bill says Jeff’s father plays games in bed with his daughter. Lila says Angelo’s mother gives herself shots in the arm.) Since teacher-student communications have no legal protection to ensure privacy, those disclosures may become public accidentally or deliberately. The effect of these proposal standards is to turn New Mexico schools and teachers into investigative agents of the state and students into little informants or spies.

This PED proposal for social studies standards is a travesty of education despite its appeals to purportedly enlightened principles. It constitutes a clear and present danger to individual liberty and civil liberties. It should be repudiated; its development, investigated; its PED perpetrators, dismissed. No state curriculum should encourage or require the disclosure of private personal information.

I am equally outraged by the comments of some of T or C’s school board members: Christine LaFont and Julianne Stroup, two white Christian women, who belong to one of the larger minorities in America and assume white and Christian privileges. In different terms but for essentially the same reason, both oppose an education which includes lessons about historical events and trends, and social movements and developments, of other minorities. They object to the proposal for the new social studies standards because of its emphasis on individual and group identities not white or Christian. I am not going to reply with specific objections; they are too numerous and too pointed.

Ms. LaFont urges: “It’s better to address what’s similar with all Americans. It’s not good to differentiate.” Ms. Stroup adds: “Our country is not a racist country. We have to teach to respect each other. We have civil rights laws that protect everyone from discrimination. We need to teach civics, love and respect. We need to teach how to be color blind.”

Their desires for unity and homogeneity, and for mutual respect, are a contradiction and an impossibility. Aside from a shared citizenship, which implies acceptance of the Constitution, the rule of law and equality under the law, little else defines Americans. We are additionally defined by our race, religion, national origin, etc. So mutual respect requires individuals to respect others different from themselves. Disrespect desires blacks, Jews or Palestinians to assimilate or to suppress or conceal racial, religious or national origin aspects of their identity. The only people who want erasure of nonwhite, non-Christian, non-American origin aspects of identity are bigots. Ms. LaFont and Ms. Stroud want standards which, by stressing similarities and eliding differences, desire the erasure of such aspects. What they want will result in a social studies curriculum that enables white, Christian, native-born children to grow up to be bigots and all others to be their victims. This would be the academic equivalent of ethnic cleansing.


This postmortem of a case involving a 75-year-old women who went missing from her home in Hillsboro last September sheds light on the bounds of law enforcement’s capacity to respond, especially in large rural jurisdictions such as Sierra County, and underscores the critical role the public, as well as concerned family and friends, can play in assisting a missing person’s search.

Reader Jane Debrott of Hillsboro commented: Thank you for your article on the tragic loss of Betsey. I am a resident of Hillsboro, a friend of Rick and Betsey, and a member of H.E.L.P. The thing that most distresses me now, is the emphasis on Rick’s mis-naming of the color of their car. I fear that this fact will cause Rick to feel that if he had only gotten the facts right, Betsey may have been rescued before it was too late. The incident was a series of unavoidable events, out of everyone’s control, and we will never know what place the correct color of her car may have had in the outcome. It breaks my heart to think that Rick has had one more thing added to his “what ifs” concerning this incident.

Diana Tittle responded: Dear Jane, the Sun undertook this investigation at the request of a Hillsboro resident concerned about the town’s inability to mount a prompt, coordinated response to the disappearance of a neighbor. From the beginning, I shared your concern about how our findings might affect Betsy’s family and friends. After I completed my research and began writing, I weighed each detail I eventually chose to include against my desire to cause no pain and the public’s right to know about the strengths and limitations of law enforcement’s response and the public’s need to know about how to be of meaningful assistance.

There was information I withheld about the state police investigation and the recovery. But I decided to include the issue of the car’s color because the individuals who spotted Betsy’s car emphasized how its color had been key to their identification of it as the vehicle described in Betsy’s Silver Alert. Because the misinformation was corrected within a couple of hours, I also included in this story the following editorial comment meant to put the error in perspective: “The fact that law enforcement throughout the state was on the lookout in the crucial early hours after Betsy’s disappearance for an elderly woman driving a “light blue” instead of a “silver” Accord would, in retrospect, likely not have changed the outcome of the search” [emphasis added].

I would also point to the story’s overarching conclusion about the inadvisability of assigning blame for what happened: “In this case, a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances, many of them beyond human control, hindered the search that it would fall to Hamilton’s department to lead.”

It is my hope that any pain caused by my reporting will eventually be outweighed by its contribution to a better community understanding of what it will take in the future to mount a successful missing person’s search in rural Sierra County.


Nearly half of Truth or Consequences electric customers have smart meters installed
by Kathleen Sloan | November 17, 2020

Truth or Consequences City Manager Morris Madrid said yesterday about 1,500 smart meters have been installed within its service area, replacing “one third to one...

Follow-up: $1-million electric-utility smart meters purchase relied on vendor information
by Kathleen Sloan | May 5, 2020

​Document requests are in and it’s official. The City of Truth or Consequences did no planning or cost analysis, relying on vendor information to arrive…

Public outcry ignored, smart meters are still a go with City of Truth or Consequences
by Kathleen Sloan | May 2, 2020

​Despite being presented with a petition signed by 250 registered voters in favor of banning smart meters for 10 years, Truth or Consequences City Commissioners…

6 thoughts on “Cops and Electric Department Director Easley descend on community activist Fenn, leaving him without electricity and in the cold”

  1. The fact that T or C ignored the petition is problematic. But now is not a good time to be without electricity. I did a quick Google search and found a number of items from radio-frequency blocking material to meter covers, many affordable, that Mr. Fenn could purchase to protect him from any exposure.

  2. So much for due process in Truth or Consequences. The city’s actions in disconnecting Mr. Fenn’s power prior to the date on the notice shows a clear case of discrimination against Mr. Fenn. The city seems to be retaliating against Mr. Fenn for being an inconvenience to the city commission and city manager.

    While I don’t always agree with Mr. Fenn, is it not his right as a resident of T or C to voice his opinion? In this case the city has ignored its own letter of notice to disconnect and ignored the legal appeal Mr. Fenn filed. Why? Does Mr. Fenn no longer have the right to due process? Did our city attorney approve of this early disconnect? It is obvious our city manager ignored his own letter to Mr. Fenn. How could the T or C police department allow this to happen; did they also ignore Mr. Fenn’s due process? Is Tor C a sovereign nation so the city manager and police and electrical department can ignore the law or due process? I smell another costly unneccesary lawsuit against the city for violating Mr. Fenn’s right to due process.

    This all could have been avoided had the city commission given us an opt-out option for these outrageously expensive, unneeded and, in my opinion, dangerous smart meters. Remember this is a $1 million dollar expense that was not needed.

    I also was forced into letting the city install a smart meter under threat of disconnection. As a side note, I am having issues with my wifi and TDS told me there is nothing wrong on their end. It started the same day I was forced to have a smart meter installed. TDS won’t say it’s the smart meter, but they also said there is nothing wrong with their equipment or my devices.

    Our city manager at the least owes Mr. Fenn an open apology for not following his own notice to disconnect.

    Shame on our city manager for not allowing due process and shame on the city commission for not giving us a choice to opt out of these insanely expensive “smart meters.”

    In addition, with the current COVID-19 crisis, why are we allowing a company from Texas to send their installer to T or C to install these meters? These meters are not essential in any way, shape or form, yet we are encouraging travel from Texas to have them installed.

  3. There is so much wrong with what happened to Ron Fenn—on so many levels.

    But let’s back up a few years and see how our rights have been whittled away. For me, having missed the Spaceport issue, it began when the T or C City Commission decided to reduce input at their meetings from the citizens, the voters, who are the owners of our community, from six minutes to three. Slowly and purposely, “we the people” have been pushed aside to enhance the power and the purse strings of the few.

    The “smart meter” purchase was rigged from the beginning. Vendors were only given two weeks to respond, and the wording of the RFP was made so that only Landis + Gyr meters were suitable (a common practice to assure acceptance). Calls from the vendors were not returned in the time allotted, preventing protests. I personally spoke with the CEOs of the top four bidders (the second-highest bidder of the L+G equipment questioned the applicability of the L+G system, as did the third-highest bidder), and all four felt the fix was in. The commissioners were not given enough information to make an informed choice other than that pushed by Mr. Madrid and the Public Utility Advisory Board. Our only legal option was to put the smart meters in front of the voters with the presentation of the issues and free democratic discussion leading to a vote (our right to petition). This was denied, illegally, I believe. The city knew there were other options, such as the county system where the meter readings travel down the wires and not through our bodies and homes OR having people read their own meters (with no way to cheat), to name a few.

    Ron was used as a scapegoat by our city manager to intimidate other citizens . . . do not protest what we feel is best for you OR question what we do.

    The list grows long, the violations of our rights continue, and we the citizens have no recourse. We have filed many affidavits over the years of blatant violations with all of the local, county and state agencies tasked with oversight and received no response.

    The recent report (audit) on the Spaceport leading to the firing of the director confirms many of our allegations and those of Mr. Fenn, and yet there has been no investigation of this city’s role and actions (i.e. violation of the state’s anti-donation law with regard to the Lee Belle Johnson Center’s below-market rental for the Spaceport visitor’s center).

    Other unanswered questions: What happened to our park? Do we really need a racetrack? Why does the Public Utility Advisory Board (non-elected) run the electric department? I am sure each of us have examples of our community’s sliding away from us while we are being saddled with massive debt.

    What it boils down to is the fact that those who pay the bills have no say. We have no plan for the future of our community developed by the owners of our community in respectful dialog within our community, but a theft of our community (“we know what is best”) orchestrated behind closed doors for the benefit of a few.

    We are being asked at this moment to decide which path to take: to support the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law or accept tyranny/slavery on local, state and national levels. Our leaders took an oath, as did many others. It is time to honor it.

  4. I had a comment to read at the city commission meeting, but the sound reception/transmission on my computer went out just as the first commenter was talking about Rotary Park. I was offered the opportunity to put my concerns in writing about protesting Ron’s treatment by the city manager and city Commissioners to whom he also appealed for help on the day the utility was removed.

    First of all, Bo shows up with two policemen—a great look for the neighbors. Bo’s a physically big man, what was his fear? Why didn’t the police uphold the 15-day notice, which was reduced to 14? That was a immediate violation by the city.

    Ron has been made the whipping boy and we citizens need to support him in his time of trial. He is entitled to protest, to point out egregious anomalies committed by Madrid over the name of the commission. Ron is in a unique position to know what happens in T or C and its real need for a dose of common sense. Madrid has no interest here, other than his $95K/year salary and his fantasy of spending every penny our electric utility asset can ever earn. He drives a city car, heading home (I understand) to Las Vegas on Thursday (so we may not even get a week’s worth of employment out of him.) For him to IGNORE the assistant attorney ceneral’s calls so that man had to call the city attorney to say make sure he called back is nasty; for him to deprive a senior hometown citizen of the ability to be clean and comfortable is far beyond any scope of city manager “power.”

    Where are you, Commissioners? Thank heaven Frances Luna voiced her protest against ripping up half the city to rebuild it. Perhaps there was even a Madrid Street in our future.

    I submitted my comment via the city clerk. I have not gotten one reply. But then, I have received no replies to any of my emails to the prior city commission or to this one. So much for responsive government.

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