EPB private emails and higher rates

GEPB Board member Marlin Witcher, left, listens to the discussion with GEPB Board Secretary Tag Taylor, right, during the February 19, 2019 meeting. It is Taylor’s compliance with The Barren County Progress’ Open Records Request that exposes GEPB Superintendent William Ray’s use of private email.

Superintendent Ray uses private email to communicate with select board members and board attorney

By Jeff Jobe
BCP/Jobe Publishing

The Barren County Progress will be clarifying a recent request for open record documents to Glasgow Electric Plant Board Superintendent William Ray, former board chairman Jeff Harned, and board attorney Jeff Herbert.

On February 28, 2019, the BCP/Jobe Publishing submitted an open records request to superintendent Ray, board chairman D.T. Froedge, and board attorney Jeff Herbert.  In this request, the BCP asked for clarifications on issues that came to surface because of the special called meeting on Tuesday, February 19.  Those issues dealt with references made by former board chairman Jeff Harned and new board secretary Tag Taylor.

Harned made a comment comparing the rates of Glasgow to all other Tennessee Valley Authority buyers.  He said it was the 4th lowest and this was news, and appeared to be good news.  The BCP wanted to quantify where he got this comparison because we have asked numerous times for updated data and our research shows a much different result.

When asked to clarify, we found that Harned was referencing the costs in which GEPB buys electricity.  It seems GEPB had the 4th lowest wholesale costs for local TVA companies buying from TVA in 2017. This may of course help keep rates low, yet for the retail buyer, it means nothing unless those savings are passed along at the same ratio for customers.

According to the current day status on the website www.electricitylocal.com, in Glasgow, Kentucky residential GEPB customers are paying on average 6.26% higher than the average rate of electricity in Kentucky with an energy charge in cents/kWh of 10.02¢.  This doesn’t include the customer charge of $27.56 the GEPB board has placed on every bill. *Any size home with any amount of usage in Kentucky Utility Company service areas will have a $12.25 customer charge.  A residential customer would pay 6.36% less than the state average, giving them a 12.62% saving compared to Glasgow and an additional savings of $15.31 in monthly customer charge.  It doesn’t appear that the savings Harned spoke of is significant or at minimum, not managed in a manner to pass along equal savings to residential customers.

The average commercial GEPB electricity rate in Glasgow is 10.42% higher than the average Kentucky rate of 8.73¢/kWh.  However, in the Kentucky Utility Company service areas, a commercial business will save 3.67% compared to state average.  The customer charge for GEPB can range from lower end of $45.88, up to $1500 per month for 2 unidentified companies.  The GEPB website shows two mid sized levels of $344.92 and $1233.14 while according to a service representative for KU their service charge is $50.40 no matter how large the company.  *For a large commercial business this could mean as much as a rate reduction in electric cost of 14.09% and another $1,233.14 each month to locate inside a KU service area versus GEPB.  

The average Industrial GEPB rate of 6.28¢/kWh is 17.38% higher than the Kentucky average of 5.35¢/kWh and the KU service area shows a rate of 5.04¢/kWh.  This KU rate is 5.79% less than the state average.  *For a major Industrial company coming to or continuing to stay in the GEPB service area this could equate to paying 22.42% more for cost of electric compared to Kentucky Utilities and up to an additional $1,449.60 each month in customer charges.

Our next question was to quantify a statement Harned made in response to new board member Mark Biggers who asked, “Why were they so rushed to make our community guinea pigs for an untested program?”  Harned said it was because revenue and sales had been dropping for years.  It has always been Ray’s position that this was a revenue-neutral program.  We now know there is one single document that actually referenced the need for Infotricity as “declining sales, using volumetric rates was a looming problem of gathering revenue needed … to cover fixed costs of EPB.”  Harned was correct that this program was done to generate more general fund money for GEPB.

We requested copies of all email communications between the superintendent and one or more board members since the BCP’s previous request on February 11, 2019.  Ray provided several emails, as did others. But one particular email shared by board member Taylor wasn’t provided by any of the others in the communication.  This particular email was sent to Tag Taylor, Jeff Harned, and Jeff Herbert’s personal emails using Ray’s personal email.  It was from a private citizen who had sent comments to Mark Biggers’ personal email. Biggers has confirmed that he didn’t give the email to Ray or anyone and has no idea how Ray got it.  The BCP confirmed with the private citizen that she did indeed share it with Ray but had no idea he would make it public and for this reason we have omitted her name.

Biggers said he is very troubled by a superintendent who would communicate with select board members and legal counsel keeping other board members in the dark.  “This just isn’t right at all,” said Biggers.  To Biggers, it appears wrong on many levels and he added, “We have private emails used to discuss EPB issues.  This is a personal email belonging to a board member shared without his knowledge, it involves a private communication of a private citizen, and it attacks the character of another board member, our mayor and a former mayor behind their backs.  All this done in secret just hours prior to a meeting.”

The following is the body of the letter from the private citizen’s email and confirmed to have been shared by Ray verbatim:

 “I am writing this to express my opinion about the ridiculousness that is about to take place tonight.  I have always considered you to be an extremely intelligent person, a man of science, and therefore a person all about the facts and the numbers.  What is happening tonight is about neither.  It is about revenge and a vendetta that some people have had for apparently quite some time.  This is not completely about rates.  And, speaking of that, if you look at the actual history of those who have so vehemently complained about their bill, most are the, I hate to say this, the uneducated who simply want someone else to foot the bill for them as they put no thought whatsoever into their energy use, or those who are behind Rhonda Trautman’s revenge on Doty for beating her – thus becoming MD’s puppet master and brains, I might add, behind all of this.  After all, why else would DT, who I also thought was a numbers guy, suddenly after telling Billy Ray what a great job he was doing in December and voting to give him a raise at that time, suddenly decides that he needs to be fired.  Interesting, huh.  Could it be that he got tired of listening to Rhonda, his cousin, niece or something, constantly telling him to do something???

At any rate, there are 100s of people in town that have benefited greatly because of the new rate system.  I have saved quite a bit of money on my bill, because I have been conscious of my energy use during the 4 times a month that the EPB announces a possible peak, and my mother has saved even more by basically doing nothing.  Personally, I like being able to determine the amount that I AM GOING TO PAY for my electricity and it not having it be determined by what the people, who are sitting around at home with everything in the world running and wasting energy that is not necessary, do.  To me THAT is what unfair! 

Perhaps you, being the reasonable, logical and scientific person that I think you are, might should actually do some “real research” before you jump in and do something so stupid as to jeopardize the EPB, it’s bonding capability, as well as the entire city because of the cost, not only monetarily (because money is going to have to come from somewhere when Billy Ray sues the Board members, the council, and whoever else he chooses to sue for firing him for no reason, detrimental effects to his character, or whatever else he feels this ungrateful group of people owes him for all of his years of hard work, dedication, not only to the EPB but also to the city, his innovation and forward- thinking … is worth.  If I were I him I would be taking all of the above to the cleaners.  I hope he does and I’m pretty sure he will. 

No need to respond to this because I KNOW THE ACTUAL TRUTH and you are not going to fool me with the trumped up allegations and ridiculous reasons that these people have concocted.  Like I said before, if you are the person I thought you were, you will let logic and reason win on this and do your due diligence to actually look at the facts before doing something so outrageous.  Please remember I like you a lot, but this is just ridiculous.  Thanks for your time.”

The BCP has reached out to Ray regarding the email and as of press time we haven’t heard back from him.  A second Open Record Request will be submitted making it clear our request would encompass personal email addresses in which EPB is referenced and if refused, we would be forced to request assistance from the Attorney General; after all, there is proof those emails are being used.

Our final requests were for any employee communications regarding the February 19 meeting and a copy of the GEPB meeting procedure Harned and Taylor said have worked so well over the years.

Ray provided no communications with employees regarding the meeting and in his response for the meeting procedures he wrote, “There is no document (meeting protocol or procedure)… but instead a 58 year history of decorum and etiquette.”  It was chairman D.T. Froedge who introduced Robert’s Rules of Order, a widely used guide of parliamentary procedure, as a possible guide for conducting meetings.  He said,  “Without order it is confusing and the public should have a clear path for conducting business.”

*Calculations made from data retrieved from www.electricitylocal.com

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