BRISTOL, VA (WJHL) – A Tri-Cities utility at the center of an ongoing, corruption investigation spelled out some of the findings in a mandatory state audit at a board meeting Wednesday.
A federal investigation of Bristol Virginia Utilities resulted in nine convictions, including the company’s former CEO, and the state now is requiring an overhaul of the board and an audit done by an outside agency.
That audit has revealed 57 issues, which include millions of dollars spent, without much documentation.
One of those issues, BVU funding $2 million of economic development projects without any formal application process to decide how to spend ratepayer money. BVU CEO Don Bowman said they can’t find much paperwork to backup those projects either.
“Our largest economic development project ever was Alpha Natural Resources we funded it for about five years and it recently closed down,” Bowman said.
Bowman said BVU gave that company more than $1 million, and helped out other companies as well.
“We had a website, couple restaurants, we’ve spent over $300,000 at The Falls shopping center,” Bowman said.
But the most troubling to Bowman, “We bought over $57,000 of NASCAR tickets and you know one of the things that came out of the federal investigation is some of those were misused by our chairman and he received he sold them and pocketed the money and that was troubling because these funds are an attempt to help create a good paying jobs in our area,” Bowman said.
Bowman said other uses of that ratepayer money include management donating BVU money to organizations they were involved with, and BVU renting planes for business trips.
“These are taxpayer dollars, to think that we don’t have any mechanism to track where the money’s going we don’t have contracts in place, we didn’t have a policy, I mean that’s just completely unacceptable and it needs to be addressed,” BVU Board Chairman Saul Hernandez said.
Hernandez and Bowman both said things have to change.
“There’ll be a lot of transparency, there’ll be a lot of public vote, we will have complete records of all of our decisions,” Bowman said.
He said the audit should be completed by the end of the week. Bowman said the board will address the findings and talk about solutions at their next board meeting October 21st.
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