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JCPB audit notes no major wrongdoings by G’Fellers

The Johnson City Power Board’s board of directors met Aug. 28 to discuss 19 agenda items.
The Town of Jonesborough’s recent appointment of former JCPB president and CEO Homer G’Fellers to the utility’s board of directors, however, was not among them.
G’Fellers, who retired from the JCPB earlier this year after 38 years of service, was appointed to serve as Jonesborough’s representative on the JCPB board last month.
In the weeks following G’Fellers’ appointment, the JCPB board of directors requested the town postpone its decision to make him a part of the utility’s guiding group while issues noted in an audit of the JCPB and G’Fellers’ possible involvement with those issues were addressed.
At last week’s meeting, the JCPB board of directors did not discuss G’Fellers’ appointment whatsoever, instead commenting on the findings in the preliminary audit.
Chairman Jenny Brock said the findings were mostly dealing with “inconsistencies” in policies, some of which she called “dated” and in need of reevaluation based on the needs of “our changing business.”
Brock also noted she did not want “a few issues” to put the “totality of the utilities company” in question, saying many of those issues were being addressed as the JCPB searched for its next CEO.
The audit cited 13 findings, or points of concern, related to the JCPB’s inventory, contracts and travel/meals. Of those, G’Fellers was specifically named in four findings.
However, board member Phil Carriger, also a member of the Johnson City Commission, pointed out that the preliminary audit may not be “a complete listing of findings” and more things may be identified in the final version of the audit.
The four findings that mention G’Fellers involve a managerial decision he made regarding an unreported accident involving a company employee and vehicle; an unapproved contract agreement for cleaning services; the payment on a contract that had not been bid; and the expense of approximately $120 at a country club that had not been reimbursed.
In responses by the JCPB to three of the findings that mention G’Fellers, utility leaders note that the former CEO did not commit any sort of illegal activity and, in some of the instances, “had no involvement” in the matter.
It was also determined, according to the fourth response, that G’Fellers had “no intention” to “improperly charge” the JCPB for meals and purchases at the country club.
G’Fellers reportedly reimbursed the company when the issue was called to his attention.
“I believe that the audit had no findings of any kind that would disqualify Homer from serving as a member of the Power Board’s board of directors,” said Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe when contacted late last week. “And I think the lack of discussion of anything in that context by the board (at the Aug. 28 meeting) proves they agree with that assessment.”
Still, during a 5-minute recess prior to the board going into executive session on an unrelated matter, Brock said she was concerned that G’Fellers serving on the board of directors could impact the utility’s ongoing search for his replacement.
“Homer has made a huge contribution to the Power Board and we want to see him continue in an advisory role in some way,” Brock said. “(But there is) an awkwardness of having him sitting on the board while we’re working through this.”
Brock and Wolfe have had discussions regarding the town’s appointment of G’Fellers, who skipped last week’s meeting in the “spirit of goodwill,” Wolfe said.
“We have had and continue to have an excellent relationship with the Johnson City Power Board,” Wolfe said. “We recognize their point of view and are going to do our best to address the situation in a matter that will satisfy their goals and objectives as well as ours. This doesn’t have to be a losing situation. It can be a win-win for both parties.”
Wolfe said he intends on having “some discussion” regarding the appointment at the town’s next Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, which is set for Sept. 10.
G’Fellers was appointed to replace Tobie Bledsoe as Jonesborough’s representative on the JCPB board of directors. Bledsoe resigned from the postion last month.
Earlier in the JCPB meeting, Brock recognized Bledsoe for her “outstanding service, dedication and loyalty” to the citizens of the the JCPB service area.
Bledsoe served in the role for 10 years.