Every once in a while, some elected official, or an appointed official and in this case, a board member, does or says something so blatantly self-serving, that for those of us who are pessimists it becomes unbelievable. The Letter published in the local paper is one of those unbelievable items.
THE LETTER AND THE COMMENTS
In a letter published in the WAVE, February 29, 2012, The chairman of the Board of Heber Power and Light, David Philips, wrote: “At its meeting of the February 22, 2012, the board of Directors of Heber Light & Power voted to terminate the Health Benefits program for Board members.”
FACT: Yes, they did vote to terminate a program, but it was not a Health Benefits program for the Board. It was never intended to be a health benefit, but it was all about receiving the money. The money benefit was terminated because the people of the valley knew they had been hoodwinked and made their dissatisfaction known. There were no findings. The reason given for the termination was simply this: “If the public is going to be this upset we need to terminate it.”
The letter continues: “Over the last several weeks, we have had extensive discussion in our community and in the media concerning compensation for the Board of Directors of the Heber Light & Power. The Board Members, themselves, have heard from many of you in Board meetings or in personal conversations.
FACT: The board is trying to confuse the issue. At first they call it Health Benefits and now they call it “compensation for the Board of Directors of Heber Light and Power.” A play on words does not change what was proposed and done. To suggest that board members have heard from the public is an understatement. To suggest the chairman heard from the public, is a misdirection of the facts. He was out of town, when other board members were taking the heat.
The letter goes on: “The Board welcomes this input and appreciates the time and effort our customers expended in presenting their views. The Board acknowledges the sincerity and conviction of those who spoke. While not always agreeing with the views expressed, the Board chose to listen, rather than to respond to the comments. The time, however, now seems right for the Board to briefly talk to its customers on this issue.”
FACT: There were people who wanted to get on the agenda and they were denied until the last meeting of February. What else could they do? The press was there and a number of people from the community as well. The Board made no comments since it is impossible to defend their actions.
At a prior meeting, while the Board chairman was out of town, Mrs. Tatton, a board member became the chair and she made the announcement in the board meeting there would be no discussion regarding this issue. So did the board listen, of course not. Did they respond to a large newspaper in Salt Lake, or did they respond to a large TV station seeking information? No they even refused telephone contact and e-mail contact from the media as well as the public? The board has done everything in their power to silence the public on this issue, all wishing this would all go away. The chairman is quoted by people in his neighborhood, as saying in the beginning: “if we hold out, it will die down.”
The next statement: “In July of 2011, the Personnel Committee of the Board along with senior staff initiated a review of the current Benefits programs. The review encompassed all current benefits, statutory holidays provided, vacation allowances and other leave provisions. During this review, expansion of the Health Care program to include Board Members was also discussed. Research confirmed that Health Care benefits could be provided to Board members under the current Public Employees Health Program (PEHP) guidelines. Primarily due to the nature of Board members’ length of service along with associated waiting periods required by PEHP, it was decided to offer the in-lieu of program so as to provide an equal benefit to all Board Members. As a result of this research and review, the Personnel Committee presented it recommendations at the regular Board Meeting in November which were subsequently approved by the Board.”
FACT: According to an e-mail sent by Mrs. Tatton to one of the citizens of Midway, they had been planning this farce for more than two years. Here are her exact words: “ Over the last two years Heber light and Power undertook a comprehensive review of all the benefits offered to its staff and Board members. This had nothing to do with employees, but board staff and Board members. So for two years they planned and conspired as to how they could get the money and still look good before the public. Board members who served during the two-year period, seem to have a memory lapse, since no one could remember seeing the study or having a conversation concerning the issue. So was it the board that undertook the study or the personnel committee that undertook the study? Keep in mind, but the personnel Committee is made up of Philips, Tatton, and Whiting. The question must be asked, where and when, did the conversations take place? And if this had to do with Health benefits, how do you make health benefit retroactive for six months prior to the vote.
Friedrich Metzsche said it best: “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”
Which is it? Were you looking for a health benefit or more compensation?
In listening to the meeting for the approval of the “deal,” there was 15 seconds of discussion before the vote. And the Board waited until two members were absent to take care of the vote. Was this the plan all a long?
The letter goes on: “Heber Light & Power has long been a respected entity in the Heber Valley and the Board’s goal is to maintain that respect from its customers. With this in mind the Board’s decision to terminate this benefit was in keeping with maintaining that respect.
FACT: Yes, Heber Light & Power has been and is a respected entity, but the public is wise enough to know, there is a difference between Heber Light & Power and the Heber Light & Power Board. The workers know the difference. Those who pay power bills know the difference. It is disgusting to see the Board trying to connect to the company. It is safe to say, Heber Light & Power works, not because of the Board, but in spite of the board. The real reason they terminated the money benefit, was as the Chairman pointed out: “If the public is going to be this upset we need to terminate it.”
When boards make decisions, if they know what they are doing, their decisions are made with findings of fact. So was this decision to take money made with findings of fact, and if so, would not the findings of fact support keeping it in spite of the public clamor? There was no respect here for the public, the citizens were looked upon as cash cows, and the board had only one thing on their mind, making more money.
More of the letter: “Some have suggested that the Board’s decision to provide additional benefits violated the Company’s Organization Agreement or Utah law. This is not true. The statutes referenced by these individuals apply to local districts or municipal governments, not to interlocal entities, such as Heber Light & Power. In addition, the board complied with the notice requirement of the open meeting laws.
FACT: The decision to take more money, in essence to steal from the ratepayers, did in fact violate laws of the State of Utah. The Board is still trying to hide behind the law that is called: “Interlocal Cooperation Act.” They believe this protects them from everything, but they forget, that criminal activity, if proven as well as conspiracy laws, trump the Interlocal Cooperation Act. There seems to be at least 13 laws that would apply to what the board did. They violated all 13. They may deny it, but this is what judge and juries do, decide facts. And a fact is not a fact of law, just because some attorney says it is or some board believes it is. Time will tell.
The Board now takes issue with those who complain they did not fulfill all the requirements of the open meeting act. The Interlocal Cooperation Act, says they will comply with the open meeting’s act of 52-4-201 and so forth. Amazing, some board members cannot remember an item on the agenda to discuss this issue of board pay or as they would suggest “health benefits” over the last two or so years. And of course, no one in the public can find an agenda with that on it or a notice in the local paper. Is this another one of those, “if we do not like the law, we ignore it, but if our actions get caught, we hide behind it?”
The letter continues: “Most know that a Board members’s role is much more than simply attending monthly meetings. The responsibility level of overseeing a $40 million organization demands a high level of commitment and knowledge. Board Members are required to meet with Management outside of the regular monthly meeting to discuss and provide direction on strategic matters including pending State and Federal legislation, Power Resources and supporting entities such as Utah Association of Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS). This is a critical part of their role so they can make decisions in the best interests of the company and the customers. Although Board Members are not full-time employees, their commitment requires much more than the small amount of time portrayed by recent comments regarding the length of the formal Board meetings.
FACT: Here is more evidence of mis-speak and an effort in justification.
At Heber Light & Power, the following people are employed to do what the letter purports the board is doing. Heber Light & Power has a superintendent. This position requires some knowledge of what is going on and he reports what he did to the Board. Heber Light and Power have hired consultants to assist with projects, delivery of power, relationship with suppliers and so forth. To suggest this is the role of the board is ridiculous. Heber Light and Power have an attorney hired to work with contracts, to make sure the law as it is related to the company is fulfilled. He provides information to the Superintendent and others related to day to day activities. For the Board to suggest they are involved, is a scary proposition. The board does not have knowledge about power and if you talk to the workers, they will tell you they don’t. The board’s role is one of public relations and going to dinners with counter parts in other areas of the State. As far as working with UAMPS, HL&P has people in the company who work with this group and the power grids associated with it. Consider this for one moment; the board would have you believed they are gods in the power world, but could the power company operate without the board? Yes, they can. Can the board operate without the workers and others in the power company? NO, they cannot. What does the writer of this letter, to customers, seeking justification mean? As you review what they say they do, and need to do, you will find, they have a goal of being micro managers. Some board members go to the plant and pretend, they are there to give direction, truth is, you must know something of the direction you propose to give. As one lineman said, “they impede the work when they show up.” If the board is doing all they say they are doing, and they know all they say they know, then we have way to many people on the payroll at the power company.
The closing part of the letter: “In closing, the Board of Directors of Heber Light & Power is committed to ensure its customers that your concerns have been heard and we will endeavor to maintain competitive rates for electricity and the level of service and integrity you have become accustomed to for many years.
Board of Directors.
FACT: If the board is concerned about competitive rates, then why did they vote to spend 150,000 dollars over some years time for their so called “health benefits” which they finally confessed is a “money benefit.”
They claim they are committed to customers’ concerns. But are they? Customers want the money the board received, paid back. So far, Dave Philips, Connie Tatton, John Whiting and Robert Patterson have refused to even consider it.
Dave Philips said it is a personal thing. Connie Tatton will not answer the question about giving it back. The same with John Whiting. Robert Patterson has told various ones “earned it, it is mine and I am not giving it back.” So much for customer concerns. And now, we have another wrinkle, there are some customers who want the resignations of those involved. Of course if they are so dishonest and will not pay the money back, can anyone be surprised if they do not resign?
Contrary to the wishes of board members, this issue is not going quietly as they desired. They have been caught, therefore, everything they do, everything they say, will be suspect and as long as they stay in office, whether they resign or through legal action. The people will know them and they will not be able to hide.
The following, according to current information, have paid back the money: Mike Kohler, Alan McDonald, Benny Murgest, Eric Straddeck, and Nile Horner.
The following have every intention of keeping the Money: Dave Philips, Connie Tatton, John Whiting and Robert Patterson.