BRISTOL, VA (WJHL) – Bristol, Virginia’s mayor and the chairman of Bristol Virginia Utilities are now both saying based on what they know now, they probably shouldn’t have gone on a 2011 trip to Dallas with BVU employees and other board members; a trip that included tickets to a Dallas Cboys game.
“Obviously, Monday morning quarterbacking is easier than at the game,” Mayor Archie Hubbard said. “Probably, we shouldn’t have gone. At the time, it seemed okay. There was no hint of any problems.”
According to Mayor Hubbard, the trip included seats in a suite at a Dallas Cowboys game and dinner at an expensive steakhouse.
According to BVU CEO Don Bowman, records reveal Alcatel-Lucent USA paid for just about the entire trip. According to utility records, that company has secured $13.2 million worth of business with BVU over the last decade; more than $10 million since the 2011 fiscal year.
Prosecutors mentioned the trip during former BVU Chief Financial Officer Stacey Pomrenke’s trial, saying former CEO Wes Rosenbalm organized the trip before agreeing on a contract with the company.
Mayor Hubbard says he and the other board members who attended actually went on the trip after the deal was finalized.
“As far as I know, it didn’t happen until after the contract was signed, which was one of the reasons I went,” he said. “It wasn’t the board’s decision to make. It was Wes’ decision. We went purely for education to make us feel better about Wes’ decision.”
According to the itinerary, Alcatel-Lucent USA bought tickets for five board members, including former chairman Paul Hurley. The three-day trip included the NFL game, dinners and a tour of Dallas, records reveal.
“We are looking forward to seeing all of you in Plano, Texas,” an Alcatel-Lucent USA sales representative said in a letter to Rosenbalm. “It should be an interesting as well as enjoyable time for all of us.”
According to the itinerary, the attendees, a group that included a handful of BVU employees, attended just one day of meetings. BVU Chairman Jim Clifton says that Monday spent at Alcatel-Lucent USA was a day full of meetings. He too says it is his understanding the trip came after the company and BVU finalized the contract for technology services.
“We spent six or seven hours in their building going over (a technology product called Quantum View),” Clifton said. “We didn’t conduct any board business. All we did was toured. We learned about it from the board perspective. There was never any kind of board vote.”
BVU board member Doug Fleenor says he originally signed up to go, but later changed his mind.
If five other board members did in fact attend, as the plane ticket purchases suggest, that would be a quorum under BVU by-laws, which could be a possible violation of Virginia Code if the board members discussed or transacted any public business.
“Whether it was a meeting depends on what they did on the visit,” Bowman said. “If there was no public business, then it was not a meeting and no minutes or notice is required.”
According to Bowman, as of Tuesday morning he’s since learned at least one other former board member (Jim Steele) did not attend; meaning at the most four board members were there. Those four include Hubbard, Clifton, Hurley and Jim Rector. In addition, other records suggest Rosenbalm and former BVU attorney Walt Bressler attended too.
In light of all of the developments involving BVU in recent years, including the fact that now seven people are guilty of federal corruption charges, Clifton says the benefit of hindsight changes things.
“Hindsight window is a great hindsight window,” he said. “Looking back, I probably wouldn’t have gone either, based on revelations now, but there’s a lot in my life I could change with the benefit of hindsight.”
Mayor Hubbard echoed those comments.
“It is what it is,” he said. “It should have been analyzed on a closer basis. I can’t change what’s been done.”
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