MORRISTOWN (WATE) – Thursday morning Morristown Utility Systems CEO Jody Wigington recommended that the MUS board review the travel, dining and entertainment expenses of MUS employees.
The internal review comes on the heels of a 6 News investigation looking at the financial records of the utility.
But the utility isn’t the only one looking into questions raised. A source confirms to 6 News the state comptroller has been given information and documents from our investigation and has opened up their own review of the utilities.
Thursday morning, management and board members of Morristown Utility System met for their monthly board meeting. It was the first time anyone from MUS addressed the concerns regarding spending on camera.
“Management has listened to the allegations and we listened to the concerns of our customers,” said CEO Jody Wigington in the meeting.
Board chairman George McGuffin defended the utility’s spending.
“The report gave ratepayers an inaccurate perception of the truth and thereby compromised the faith MUS has earned over the years,” McGuffin said.
Documents provided by MUS through a 6 News open records request showed they spent $91,000 on travel last year and $33,000 on company banquets. Ratepayer dollars were also spent on expensive dinners and hotel movies.
The charges from our report raised questions board member Lynn Elkins.
“That was really news to me,” Elkins said after the board meeting.
She says there are policy changes that need to be addressed.
“I think a tighter rein on expenditures and things like this and if a person has a movie on their motel bill they need to reimburse,” she said referring to several in-room hotel movie charges we revealed in our report.
Wigington says management will review policies surrounding travel and dining expenses, end of the year banquets and the use of company credit cards.
“The policy will be reevaluated to look at the appropriateness of issue of cards, the number of cards allowed, the types of purchase allowed and the supervisory review process and the goal is greater accountability,” Wigington.
He also said while traveling to conferences is a necessary part of creating a better business, they will also examine those expenses.
“We will recommend alternate ways to administer travel expenses. The intent is for us to attend training and conferences which are the most valuable to our operations. We will make sure any reductions if they were made are not counterproductive to the company,” he said.
Wigington credits those conferences for helping create better business practices including keeping rates low. Saying MUS’s electric rates are the 10th lowest out of 87 regions.
The board did allow public comment ahead of their meeting, a rarity.
Two representatives from the Morristown business community spoke in support of MUS.
“MUS, over the years, has worked with us on incentive programs to reduce our rates and they have directed us and guided us with opportunities with TVA to reduce our rates and keep us more competitive. This gives us an advantage to be more competitive and have more growth and opportunities in Hamblen County,” said Keith Andrews with Tuff Torq.
Morristown’s mayor says he is pleased to hear MUS will take a look at the concerns raised but says he wants to ensure change actually happens.
“I will make that promise to the ratepayers and the citizens that i will not let it fall through the cracks, that it will be brought forward again if its not dealt with,” Mayor Danny Thomas.
Wigington says they will review the polices over the next several months and present some of the recommendations at the June board meeting.
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