June 17, 2012

Shady Dealings

All politics is local or something to that effect.  Man, oh, man!

Here's the background.  The Big Rip's power utility has been under the domain of one man for years. The  son-in-law of a former mayor.  At some point, they concocted the grand scheme of consolidating both the power and gas/water utilities under his control and providing him with a guaranteed contract until the year 2017.  The city and public disagreed.  The would-be czar of the utility fiefdom sued and lost.

Ah, but he is a wily egghead. Fast forward to the present. The father-in-law is no longer the mayor; however...a relative becomes an alderman and the city's rep to the power company's "independent board" which, supposedly, provides oversight to the utility.  Can someone say:  "Conflict of Interest?"  Obviously, no one cared.  This "independent board," by the way, is composed of citizens selected by the Board of Alderman.  Anyway, she pushed through each of the power czar's initiatives, including increasing the existing three-member "independent board" to five, in order to get a majority was said.  As if two out of three votes wasn't a majority.

This year, the czar divorced the ex-mayor's daughter. A month later, the "independent board" granted him nearly a 1/2 million dollar bonus for a job well done, $460K and some change, to be paid over a ten-year-period into his pension plan.  The vote was three out of five, with the relative putting forth the proposal and voting in favor of the bonus. The other two?  One, newly elected to the "independent board."  The other, a County Commissioner.  The relative elected not to run for re-election to her seat.  Wonder why?  Not up to facing enraged citizens?  Dirty work done? 

Taken from a citizen's rant:  "During these 30 plus years, there has been one disagreement after another and it always appears to center around money that the CEO makes or what he thinks he should make. You do not hear too much about the actual daily happenings in the business. He took his board to Halls and had them approve his selling of sick/vacation time back. He asked for and received 12% raises when all other city departments were at a stand still. His compensation package with all of his perks is nearly $200K per year for a rate payer base of approximately 6500 in small Ripley. Why is this man not satisfied? All controversy has always been over money he thought he should have."

The "independent board" held their monthly meeting, with a significant turnout from the public, and decided to review their controversial decision at their next meeting.  So, the newly-elected Board of Aldermen has to handle the dirt. The Board of Aldermen's request that that someone from the "independent board" respond at the May meeting went ignored. Not a soul showed. The "board," instead, blithely went on a jaunt to Biloxi, MS. Talking about tone deaf.

At the June meeting, they decided that they needed an attorney before they could discuss the issue further. They want to know their liability.  Spare me! Have they heard of fiduciary accountability--to the public?  What will be the rationale next month? It has been said that the money has already been transferred into the czar's account.  Should common sense prevail and they decide that .5 million is an exorbitant amount to award as a bonus (while the ratepayers struggle to pay their light bill), how do they intend to retrieve the money? And just what does the Board of Aldermen intend to do about it? Gripe and moan?

Here's my take on this political debacle. An independent board is mandated by state law. Disband the current "independent board" and install:
  • (if such a person can be found) people who are not beholden to the current political czars
  • an independent thinker; one who has common sense
  • rescind the bonus and put that money to use where the rate payer can benefit.
Time to correct the shady dealings.  As my favorite president says, "It's the right thing to do."

Be safe.  Be Blessed.

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