Friday, May 18, 2012

SAO Audit Requested

As there has been little progress in recovering the remainder of the excessive pay received by the HL & P Board (see posts below) an audit request has been submitted to the State Auditor's Office

"The "State Auditor Hotline" provides an avenue for citizens, including government employees, to report suspected financial improprieties or violations of laws or regulations by state and local governments; waste of public funds or resources; and/or constructive suggestions for improving state and local governments regarding financial-related matters, internal control, or compliance. The Hotline coordinates the efforts of existing resources, rather than duplicating efforts of authority already in place."

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We residents of Wasatch County and Heber Light and Power ratepayers hereby “report suspected financial improprieties or violations of laws or regulations by state and local governments; waste of public funds” and request an audit of Heber Light and Power and/or its owners, Heber City, Midway and Charleston.
We have contacted "the government officials (including the county attorney) directly involved in the issue(s) the chance to take action or modify procedures." They were "not responsive."

Who is the person(s) the complaint is against? (Please provide name, position, agency, division, and phone #)
Dave Phillips, Chair (Heber City)(654-0574,;  Connie Tatton (Midway) (654-2416,; John Whiting (Charleston)(654-2343, – (Human Resources Committee) - and possibly other members of the Heber Light & Power Board of Directors
Who is the above person’s supervisor? (Please provide name, position, and phone#)
They are the governing board of Heber Light and Power.   There does not appear to be any supervision or oversight of the Board.
What is the assertion of improper governmental activity? Please describe in detail.
Planning, preparing, instituting and accepting a four-fold plus pay increase for themselves, an annual amount which would have been more that half of the dividend normally paid to the cities owning HL & P and about the same as collected from residents in recently passed service charge fees.
When did the event(s) take place? Please include dates, time, and frequency.
Specifically, at a meeting 16 Nov 2011, and some time period before preparing and continuing payments. In that meeting under an agenda item of Employee & Exempt Employee Manual Amendments” the board (with two absent members) approved an effective monthly pay raise of $1,687, supposedly for “health care benefits.” That agenda item appears to be a violation of the intent of the Open Meetings Act; the discussion on the the pay raise (retroactive “health insurance” benefit) lasted less than one minute. (audio available)
These “benefit” payments were made retroactive for a period of several months resulting in a payment in December 2011 of $10,122 per board member and continuing payments in January and February 2012 for $1687.
This payment was in addition to their “regular” monthly payments of about $466 ($599 for chair). The board generally spends less than 2 hours per month in a board meeting.
One board member refused to accept the payment as excessive and subsequently, after a citizen petition protesting the action, 7 or 8 of the recipients have reportedly returned, or agreed to return, the funds. The online petition collected about 570 signatures a few hundred were collected on paper.
Mayors Philips and Tatton and Heber Councilman Patterson have refused to return the money as they indicated they believed it had been “earned.” Mr. Patterson was not even a board member in 2011, but received $4.050 as part of a shared compensation plan among Council members. The remaining Council members returned their share of the money. Charleston Town President John Whiting reportedly is returning the money by not accepting his monthly payment.
Phillips, Tatton and Whiting were members of the “Human Resource” Committee and/or the Personnel committee which formulated the so-called health benefit plan over a period of two years. Other board members have reported they were unaware of the proposal until it was presented at the November Board meeting. The two members who were NOT present learned about it after the meeting.
At a meeting of the Board in January, public comment were allowed, but no explanation was offered, no discussion on the issue was held and no questions were answered. At the February Board meeting, future payments were suspended. After pointed questioning, Chair Phillips indicated he would not take the February payment, but repayment was a “personal decision.”

Where did the event(s) occur?

Heber City, UT

Are there any other persons who might provide information or who witnessed the event? If so, what are their names, positions, agencies, divisions, and their contact information?

Other board members at the time: Mike Kohler (Wasatch Co.) (654-3728), Alan McDonald,, Benny Mergist, 801 404-7765, and management and employees of HL & P

Is there evidence that can be examined or documentation that can be reviewed? (Please provide any documentation you have)

Meeting records, recordings, documentation can be found here with accompanying links.

How do you know about the improper action? Did you see it occur? Did you see documentation indicating it occurred? Did you hear about it from someone else?

Documentation, reports from others, failure of response and explanation from those involved. No Board responses from petition submitted at meeting and numerous requests for an explanation. County Attorney was non-responsive in requests from several citizens to investigate the situation.

What specific law or state regulation has been violated?

Possibly, Open Meetings Act, Municipal Officers' and Employees' Ethics Act, perhaps more, specifically

10-3-818.   Salaries in municipalities.
     (1) The elective and statutory officers of municipalities shall receive such compensation for their services as the governing body may fix by ordinance adopting compensation or compensation schedules enacted after public hearing.
     (2) Upon its own motion the governing body may review or consider the compensation of any officer or officers of the municipality or a salary schedule applicable to any officer or officers of the city for the purpose of determining whether or not it should be adopted, changed, or amended.
In the event that the governing body decides that the compensation or compensation schedules should be adopted, changed, or amended, it shall set a time and place for a public hearing at which all interested persons shall be given an opportunity to be heard.

10-3-1309.   Inducing officer or employee to violate part prohibited.
     It is a class A misdemeanor for any person to induce or seek to induce any appointed or elected officer or municipal employee to violate any of the provisions of this part.

10-3-1304.   Use of office for personal benefit prohibited.
(b) use or attempt to use the officer's or employee's official position to:
     (i) further substantially the officer's or employee's personal economic interest
; or
     (ii) secure special privileges for the officer or employee or for others;
17B-1-308.   Boards of trustees comprised of county or municipal legislative body members.
(e) board members may not receive compensation for their service as board members in addition to compensation they receive as members of a county or municipal legislative body.
Utah Public Officers and Employees Ethics Act.
67-16-4 . . it is an offense for a public officer, public employee,
(c) use or attempt to use his official position to:
     (i) further substantially the officer's or employee's personal economic interest
; or
     (ii) secure special privileges or exemptions for himself or others;
67-16-5 (1)(b) compensation received for private services rendered at a rate substantially exceeding the fair market value of the services.
67-16-11. Applicability of provisions. “The provisions of this chapter apply to all public officers and public employees”.
26-20-6. Conspiracy to defraud prohibited. “ A person may not enter into an agreement, combination, or conspiracy to defraud the state by obtaining or aiding another to obtain the payment or allowance of a false, fictitious, or fraudulent claim of a medical benefit.”
11-13-222.   Officers and employees performing services under agreements. (2) Unless otherwise provided in an agreement that creates an interlocal entity, each employee of a public agency that is a party to the agreement shall:
     (b) continue to be governed by the rules, rights, entitlements, and status that apply to an employee of that public agency.

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