BRISTOL, VA (WJHL)- Wednesday we told you a mandatory state audit found dozens of issues at Bristol Virginia Utilities, which is at the center of an ongoing corruption investigation.
That investigation has resulted in nine convictions, and the state has required all new board members, in addition to the audit.
The new BVU leaders said they plan to address all 57 issues found in the audit that looked at the years from 2010 to 2015.
“We’re going to have to come up with a mechanism as a board, a dashboard of sorts if you will so we can track progress on each and every one of these findings,” BVU Board Chairman Saul Hernandez said.
One issue the audit pointed out, BVU spent 2 million dollars on economic development projects without much documentation to back up those deals, according to BVU CEO Don Bowman.
“Some of them probably were outside of the scope of what we are permitted to fund,” Bowman said.
Bowman said BVU’s contract with Tennessee Valley Authority allows spending up to $500,000 a year on economic development projects that will benefit the electric system. But for many of BVU’s past investments, the lights are now off.
“We’ve had quite a few businesses that have made it but also had quite a few businesses that have closed or went bankrupt or relocated,” Bowman said.
Bowman said he and the BVU board will iron out a detailed policy to follow for future economic development decisions, something he said BVU hasn’t had before.
“One of the recommendations they had, which we fully support and we are already working on getting a solution to is we didn’t have a formal application process and sometimes we weren’t very transparent with the public on why we selected a particular candidate,” Bowman said.
“The second part of it is have performance agreements in place so that if we give a company or an entity some money there’s a provision to be able to get that money back if they don’t do their part of the bargain,” Hernandez said.
Another problem found in the audit, BVU donating money to specific charities. “Some of our management were involved in agencies that received the donations and so one of the changes in the new law is we do not donate to charitable organizations anymore, that’s prohibited,” Bowman said.
Some other changes already in place- each board meeting is open to public comment and financial reports are posted online.
“We have violated the public trust or at least this organization has by its actions in the past and one of the ways for us to get it back is to be completely transparent,” Hernandez said.
Bowman said TVA will be in town next week to help BVU craft policies related to economic development projects. Bowman said the board will be discussing the audit findings and solutions at its meeting next Friday.
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