Report: BTES CEO’s decisions ‘unwise and/or questionable,’ but not criminal

SULLIVAN COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – Although Bristol Tennessee Essential Services CEO Dr. Mike Browder made “what appeared to be unwise and/or questionable business decisions” over a five-year period, grand jurors found he never personally benefited as a result, according to a newly released Sullivan County Grand Jury Report.

Grand jurors found no criminal behavior and no criminal intent when they considered the case in January. Their decision to take no action came almost a year after the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury’s Office issued a scathing investigative audit. That audit raised questions about whether the CEO had ratepayers’ best interests in mind when he arranged a multi-million dollar deal with Carina Technology to buy a water heater switch. At the time, his name was on the patent for that switch.

Auditors concluded Dr. Browder did not disclose that conflict of interest to the entire BTES board, along with payments to Carina that helped keep the financially struggling company viable.

“Two major concerns at the center of the investigation were the CEO’s failure to disclose co-owning the patent for the switch, resulting in possible conflict of interest, and financial transactions made under his direction that allegedly were not in the best interest of BTES and their ratepayers,” the Grand Jury Report said. “While there were what appeared to be unwise and/or questionable business decisions made during a five year period, the CEO never personally benefited monetarily from co-owning the patent, the Water Heater Program using the switch was financially successful and BTES’s electrical rates remained cost effective for their consumers. The Grand Jury could find no solid findings of criminal intent or actions on the part of the BTES CEO or BTES and voted to take NO ACTION.”

Dr. Browder apologized last year, but maintained the deal continues to save BTES ratepayers money, saying that was his intent all along. He also transferred the patent to BTES’ name.

Copyright WJHL 2017. All rights reserved.

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