Tag Archives: utility

Utility District VP Indicted on Official Misconduct Charges

News release from TBI:
Knoxville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation today arrested the former Sevier County Utility District Vice President after he was indicted Monday by the Sevier County Grand Jury for circumventing the competitive bid process and personally profiting from a deal involving the trade-in of with a utility district motor vehicle while he held his county position in December 2009.
Jeffrey McCarter, 49, of 1005 Top Side Drive, Sevierville, Tenn. is charged with one count of official misconduct. An audit conducted by the Municipal Audit, Comptroller’s Office revealed that McCarter arranged a deal to trade-in a utility district Silverado truck to McNelly-Whaley Ford, for $10,000 less than it was worth to the utility district. He then personally purchased the vehicle and traded the truck in at Volunteer Chevrolet for fair market price. The investigation originated from the audit which spanned from 2007-2009 and the 4th Judicial District Attorney General’s office requested TBI open an investigation on March 23, 2011.
McCarter was booked into the Sevier County Jail this morning on $10,000 bond.

Utility Districts Face More Scrutiny Under New Law (and maybe they needed it)

A tough new law imposing stricter state oversight of Tennessee’s 182 utility districts – which serve hundreds of thousands of customers and collect millions of dollars in rates – quietly went into effect Friday, reports the News Sentinel.
More reform is on the way, according to state Comptroller of the Treasury Justin P. Wilson, who ushered the legislation through the General Assembly.
Wilson said he was crafting the new law before recent investigative audits uncovered flagrant misuse and thefts of ratepayer money in several East Tennessee utility districts.
“The need for transparency and accountability in this area we had before these investigations were completed and before we knew what they would turn up,” Wilson said.
But those scandals grabbed lawmakers’ attention, he said, and provided impetus for last-minute tweaks of the bill.
“When you’re dealing with the General Assembly, it’s better to deal with concrete examples that you can see,” he said. “The bill was modified in response to these accusations.”
The story is part of a News Sentinel package of articles on utility districts and their problems.
There’s also a story on water leakage from utility systems – up to 40 percent loss in once case; a report on an investigation into alleged misdeeds at an Oak Ridge utility district and an editorial lauding Comptroller Wilson’s efforts to audit districts and strengthen the laws governing them.

Ouster Effort Launched Against East TN Utility Commissioners

Powell-Clinch Utility District commissioners should be tossed out of office for failing to oversee operations, funding pricey employee junkets, claiming needless travel expenses and underwriting costly office parties, according to a state ouster petition.
More from a Bob Fowler story:
The document also states that the three commissioners should be ousted because they’ve condoned ongoing retaliation against the whistleblower who told the state about district woes. The 18-page ouster petition was filed this week by the state’s Utility Management Review Board.
The regulatory agency’s decision seeking ouster – a previously rare move – now advances to a hearing before a state administrative law judge.
“We intend to defend ourselves vigorously,” Powell-Clinch Commissioner Jerry Shattuck said Friday. “We don’t think we’ve failed in our fiduciary duty to ratepayers.”
The board is also considering a hearing to oust Sevier County Utility District commissioners, also because of a state investigative audit outlining misuse of ratepayer money.

Rep. Hurley Takes Job at Utility District

Freshman state Rep. Julia Hurley has accepted a customer service job with the Lenoir City Utilities Board, reports the News Sentinel.
Hurley, a Republican whose 32nd District includes Lenoir City and Roane County, will work part time in the customer service department, according to Shannon Littleton, LCUB general manager. Hurley will work at different locations, including the LCUB offices in Lenoir City and Farragut, he said. The position pays about $8 per hour.
Hurley, who pointed out that state representatives only receive about $19,500 per year, said she has to work just like her constituents.
“I don’t plan on being a career politician,” she said.
Voters handed the House seat to Hurley over nine-term Democrat incumbent Dennis Ferguson.
Hurley said she plans to try to learn on the job at LCUB and expects to get to meet more people in her district.
“It’s a good way to learn about the utility industry, which is very important to my district and the state,” she said.
Hurley is founder and owner of JayCy Co. which operates http://www.SECGrillToppers.com, an online store that features collegiately licensed sports apparel and tailgate party needs.
During the campaign last year, critics tried to make an issue of Hurley’s experience working at Hooters, a restaurant known for its attractive female servers. She told voters that she was proud to have worked her way through Maryville College as a Hooters server in Alcoa.

Bookkeeper Charged With Stealing from Utility District

News release from state comptroller’s office:
A former utility district employee was arrested last week on theft charges following an investigation by the Comptroller’s Division of Municipal Audit. A Sequatchie County grand jury indicted Charlotte Turner, the former bookkeeper/office manager of the Cagle-Fredonia Utility District, for stealing more than $32,000 in ratepayer funds.
Auditors determined that Turner took cash collections from the utility district that were supposed to be deposited in the bank. Since Turner was the district’s sole employee responsible for receiving collections, logging computer records of those collections, preparing deposits, delivering deposits to the bank and reconciling bank statements, she was in position to steal cash collections without being noticed by other district employees.
A report detailing the investigation, which was released today, is available online at: http://www.comptroller1.state.tn.us/Repository/MA/Investigative/caglefredoniaud.pdf

Comptroller Hails Passage of Utility District Reform Bill (which he drafted)

News release from state comptroller’s office:
Comptroller Justin P. Wilson praised members of the General Assembly for approving legislation that will bring sweeping changes to the way utility districts operate and report information to the public.
“I have often said that sunlight is the best disinfectant,” Comptroller Wilson said. “And this legislation will bring more information about utility districts into the sunlight. I want to thank all the members of the General Assembly who voted for these reforms, but particularly Sen. Ken Yager and Rep. Ryan Haynes, who sponsored the bill and worked to ensure its passage.”
“This bill is about accountability, whether we’re talking about water loss, expenditure of ratepayer funds or the selection process for the boards of directors of utility districts,” Sen. Yager said. “This legislation makes significant changes to the Utility District Law of 1937 that will give greater conformity across the state in the way we select our boards of directors and it will also ensure greater transparency and accountability.”

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