December 21_6:50am_What does CU have to say about things in the Audit
Friday, December 21, 2007 - 42 - Guest John Twitty, General Manager of C.U.
What I heard was a lot of willingness to TALK, willingness to be RESPONSIVE, willingness to have a DIALOG, but no promises.
Beyond Twitty's vague statement that, "We take the audit very seriously," I'm just not hearing any real details about how Twitty plans to "be responsive." What? By running T.V. ads for public relations and telling every media outlet in the city, "We take the audit very seriously," with the addition of C.U.'s polished and paid for advertising slogan?
The most troublesome of all, to me, in the C.U. audit report, was the question of charitable contributions accompanied by the verbal statement of adamant belief from State Auditor, Susan Montee, that these charitable contributions are unconstitutional.
Here was Twitty's response to Vincent David Jericho on that issue:
"It's again, Vince, I think, an area that's ripe for some really good DISCUSSION and we intend to address that one in particular because it is such a policy based or philosophical CONVERSATION and those questions that you ask are certainly fair.
I would say that we would never, ever, at City Utilities, do anything, KNOWINGLY, to violate either the constitution or any statute, whether federal or state or the city charter, so if there are things that we need to do differently on a going forward basis in this area we certainly want to do them in a way that is acceptable and supported by the community."*
As a matter of fact, when I attended the press conference after the C.U. audit hearing Tuesday night, December 18, John Twitty would not commit to seeking an opinion from the Missouri Attorney General so that the city-owned utility could put this issue to rest, once and for all, with an opinion from the highest authority on constitutionality in the State of Missouri. Instead, he said there are other ways to determine whether it is constitutional for a city-owned utility to make charitable contributions out of PROFITS netted from their customers.
The Missouri State Auditor, Susan Montee, believes it IS unconstitutional and further stated that the city-owned utility should not be profiting from the electric services they provide to the public.
Again, at the press conference, Twitty said there are other ways to get opinions on that, but when you have a difference of opinion of this gravity between the State Auditor's office and a city-owned utility and choose to make your decision about the constitutionality of the policy based on the opinions of your own in-house or otherwise hand-picked attorneys, this citizen wonders whether C.U. plans to continue with the policy because as long as they do not seek the State Attorney General's official opinion they will not KNOWINGLY be violating the Missouri constitution and they can continue to make these contributions as they choose.
This would seem like the most OBVIOUS time to seek the opinion of the State's Attorney General, in my opinion.
"If there are some of these kind of things that give people heartburn or heartache then I want to engage in the dialog with them to give them the information to at least from their own opinion."*
My opinion is that you should seek the opinion of the Attorney General on whether it is constitutional for a City owned utility to profit from the services they provide and then distribute those profits among hand-picked local charities, John.
Talk is cheap.