SCOTTS RUN PUBLIC SERVICE DISTRICT – A GOOD THING DESTROYED
Ben Conley’s Scotts Run article (see below) in the Dominion Post today reveals some of the wrongs of the Scotts Run Public Service District (SRPSD) takeover by the Morgantown Utility Board (MUB). What a stench the article helps lift the lid on. Surely Conley owes much of that article to the public justice efforts by Jill Ware and by the active concerned citizens of Scotts Run. Conley’s article shows that the Morgantown/Monongalia County “good ol’ boy” network sneaked around behind the public’s back and then unlawfully rammed through the SRPSD takeover by MUB, under the guard of the Monongalia County Sheriff.
It will take ongoing public pressure to see that the needed constructive result comes about, a reversal of the SRPSD takeover by MUB. Especially failing continued public pressure and exposure of the intransigence, more likely are a few hand-slapping admonishments of officials by officials. The SRPSD Board, and the County Commission, and MUB now appear ever more negligent and wrong, sneaking around out of public sight, and then backed by the County Sheriff’s office, shoving the Scotts Run takeover down the public’s throat. The Morgantown City Council looks similarly negligent and wrong in rubber stamping the highly dubious takeover, opposed by the public, an unlawful takeover.
As for the state Public Service Commission (PSC), the jury is still out. At least the PSC referred the MUB takeover of Scotts Run to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), who reportedly has until December 19, 2013 to rule.
There certainly is enough evidence, law, and public need for the ALJ and PSC to reverse the takeover. And, who knows, the ALJ could properly or best rule to do so. It’s likely that the pressure from the SRPSD activists ensured that the PSC did refer the matter to the ALJ.
There is zero evidence that the SRPSD takeover by MUB is in the public’s interest. Hopefully the PSC is not tightly connected to the local good ol’ boy, buddy/buddy network and did not refer the case to a good ol’ boy “friendly” ALJ.
It’s far from cynicism to understand that such “good ol’ boy” or buddy/buddy political connections exist and are used to mutually back scratch. What else explains former County Commissioner Asel Kennedy’s stocking the SRPSD board with his think-alike buddies? It appears that Larry Taylor got it right in his letter to the Domion Post Editor: the SRPSD destruction was the revenge of Joe Tennant and others enabled by his network of buddies that apparently includes Asel Kennedy, whose political network obviously included Bill Bartolo and Eldon Callen on the County Commission.
Everybody is helping a buddy out. That there was a real need to destroy the SRPSD is absurd. But buddy/buddy political connections exist at the local level and at every other level, and across levels, not pervasively, but commonly. Meanwhile, 2 boards, 1 commission, and 1 council have all already approved the SRPSD/MUB takeover, with another commission making friendly noises, so the ALJ might almost have to be a stranger from a strange land to go against the tide of official approval, even if there is no buddy/buddy back scratching going on. How many strangers in a strange land exist in West Virginia officialdom?
That said, it would be good for the public to catch a break with the ALJ, to stay the hand, at least for a moment, of all the buddy/buddy back scratching and rubber stamping. That would be something. Though maybe not enough.
Code: Scotts Run illegal
Law requires prior approval for a takeover
BY BEN CONLEY The Dominion Post – July 9, 2013
Emails between Morgantown Utility Board (MUB) and Scotts Run Public Service District (PSD) officials show that the two entities were in discussions as early as January for MUB to take over the PSD.
And, although state law mandates prior approval from the state Public Service Commission (PSC), documents from the PSC question that the proper agreement is in place.
West Virginia State Code 24-2-12 says, “Unless the consent and approval of the public service commission of West Virginia is first obtained: (a) No public utility subject to the provisions of this chapter, except railroads other than street railroads, may enter into any contract with any other utility to operate any line or plant of any other utility subject thereto, nor which will enable such public utility to operate their lines or plants in connection with each other.”
Earlier this summer, a sign was placed on the door of the Scotts Run PSD building that read, “As of May 15, 2013 this office is closed.”
That was the morning MUB officials — flanked by Monongalia County sheriff ’s deputies — removed the files and machinery from the building and changed the building’s locks. Meanwhile, Scotts Run PSD board members fired the PSD’s employees.
Two weeks later, MUB general manager Tim Ball appeared before the Morgantown City Council to describe what approvals he needed from the city.
During his explanation, he told council how it will likely take the PSC “two to three months” to return a decision.
He said that until the PSC approved the acquisition, MUB was simply operating on behalf of Scotts Run PSD.
“It’s that two- or three-month lag in the acquisition agreement that makes the O&M (operations and maintenance) agreement necessary. So we can operate it in the interim,” Ball said.
The PSC, however, has never approved an O&M agreement.
In a memo dated June 19, Lisa Wamsley, staff attorney for the PSC, more information was requested.
“It is unclear to Staff whether MUB has already begun the operation and maintenance of the District’s sewer collection system. Please clarify who currently operates and maintains the District’s sewer collection system. If MUB is currently providing the operations and maintenance, is there a previous O&M agreement in place?”
The answer to that question, according to Ball, is no.
Ball said Scotts Run PSD is running off the agreement struck between MUB and the Scotts Run board at a meeting held May 22 — a week after MUB took possession of the Scotts Run files and computers and the first time the acquisition was discussed in a public forum of any kind.
Ball was then asked if MUB could run Scotts Run PSD without an O&M agreement approved by the PSC.
“We l l , that’s what we’re doing,” he said Monday.
Ball said the PSC made Thursday the deadline to provide the additional information.
He said he remains confident that the commission will approve the acquisition.
Ball went on to say that the acquisition was never discussed in public because his conversations with the Scotts Run board did not occur until the first week of April, too late to be included in the MUB board’s April 9 meeting.
However, emails released to former Scotts Run employees and board members through a Freedom of Information Act request and obtained by The Dominion Post, seem to indicate not only that Ball and members of the Scotts Run board were in communication as far back as January, but that MUB was taking a thorough look at the public service district.
In an email dated Jan. 7, 2013, MUB comptroller Debbie Osborne tells Ball, “Tim, Attached is a basic analysis of Scotts Run PSD.”
Then, on April 8, 2013, Osborne sent Ball another email that reads, “We looked at this in some detail after Joe Tennant called you a while back in January. ”
Tennant is one of three members of the Scotts Run board.
In an email to Tennant dated April 11, Ball asks for phone numbers for Scotts Run board members Joe Morris and Virgil Coulter, stating, “I just want to talk with them personally so I can build the type of good working relationship with them that you and I have developed. We all may spend some time in a fox hole together in the next few months …” then Ball adds a smiley-face emoticon.
In another email from Monongalia County administrator Diane DeMedici to Ball on April 25, DeMedici wrote, “Joe Tennant stopped in yesterday. I assured him the Commission was fully behind the take over … Will a public hearing be necessary before you assume the customers? Joe is concerned that if news gets out, the employees and others in the community might make things more difficult. He wants to be able to walk into one of their meetings and make the announcement that things will change immediately.”
State code does allow the PSC to “grant its consent in advance or exempt from the requirements of this section” those it sees fit if the terms are fair, neither side received an unfair advantage and it does not adversely affect the public.
Ball has already said that MUB will not guarantee that sewage will be expanded along Route 100 if the acquisition goes through. Providing sewage along Route 100 was Phase 3 of the Scotts Run plan.
Before being named to the Scotts Run PSD board by the Monongalia County Commission, Tennant fought the Scotts Run PSD’s effort to bring sewage services to Route 100, going so far as filing a petition with the PSC.
Protest against closure, acquisition of area PSD
by Larry Taylor – June 22, 2013 Dominion Post
Recently, information was acquired by way of the Freedom of a Information Act request. In this information, I found out that emails were being sent back and forth from Scotts Run Public Service District (PSD) board member, Joe Tennant, and Morgantown Utility Board general manager, Tim Ball.
I was surprised, to find out that these emails dated back to Jan. 7 and more surprised that a reference to spending time in a foxhole ended with a smiley face. It is evident, from the contents of these emails, that the conspiracy went deeper than originally expected.
Prior to being appointed as a board member, Joe Tennant fought against the Scott’s Run PSD; he publicly screamed foul against the Scotts Run PSD and posted signs on his property, indicating his distaste for public sewage in the W.Va. 100 area. We all know that sewage did not take place in the W.Va. 100 area.
One could only conclude that his revenge did not stop there. All he needed was a position on the Scotts Run PSD board, along with co-conspirers, he could have one final war with the Scotts Run PSD.
He and his fellow board members would conspire and make false accusations in order to devise a plan for the takeover by MUB.
The meetings that took place in the foxholes ended on May 15. We all know what took place on that day. (MUB took control of the PSD’s office and operations).
This plan was executed within three months of the third co-conspirator being placed on the board in February 2013.