By Joe Lewis - Staff Writer
Sept. 26, 2012 —
Amid a large community turnout, Olive Hill City Council voted unanimously last Tuesday to request a state attorney general’s investigation of all city-owned utilities.
Responding to a Sep. 12 Journal-Times article outlining numerous potentially improper electric rate increases over the last six years, Council member Kenny Fankell made the motion for an AG probe.
“This way, a separate entity can come in and tell us if there’s anything that we’ve done wrong. We’re not putting the blame on anybody, we’re just asking for an investigation.” Fankell said.
Commenting on Fankell’s motion, Council member Linda Lowe added, “Everyone makes mistakes.”
This marks the second consecutive meeting that the Olive Hill Council has sought state intervention regarding city matters.
At the August regular meeting, the Council unanimously passed a measure requesting the state auditor’s office to conduct the city’s required annual audit, rather than continue retaining the services of Ashland-based accounting firm Kelley Galloway, PSC.
A major point of contention between Mayor Danny Sparks and City Council candidate Glenn Meade centered on whether or not the Council had been previously notified of the KRS statute requiring public notice of electric rate increases.
Sparks asserted that the Sep. 12 Journal-Times article was the first time that he or the Council had been made aware of the statute, but Meade countered with claims that he had been bringing this to the Council’s attention for more than two years.
Meade later provided a statement to the Journal-Times with specifics:
"In the summer of 2010, I handed out copies of KRS 96.534 to the mayor and Council during a regular meeting. I did this because I had seen rate increases in my electric billing without proper public notice."
A review of meeting minutes from January 2010 to present has no references to either the mayor or City Council receiving copies of these statutes.
When questioned on why such action wouldn’t be included in the minutes, Meade responded by saying:
"It is no surprise to me that this is not recorded in the meeting minutes. I recently reviewed an entire fiscal year of minutes only to find that public discussion is rarely, if ever, included. The official minutes appear to be merely a voting record and no vote was taken on my presentation."
The mayor brought a quick end to the electric rate discussion by expressing that he felt the city had done nothing wrong in its handling of electric rates.
“We are not going to talk about this in depth right now,” added Sparks, stifling further discourse over concerns that litigation could be forthcoming.
Tyler’s Pizza owner Carolyn Callihan got the last word in, however, when she conveyed deep concerns to the mayor and Council regarding drastic electric rate increases immediately following the May 2010 flood.
“Instead of taking care of us, I feel like you hurt us,” said Callihan.
At press time Tuesday, a representative for Attorney General Jack Conway informed the Journal-Times that the city had yet to make any contact with the AG’s office regarding an official investigation.
Joe Lewis can be reached at email@example.com or by telephone at 286-4201.