Complaint Filed Says TVA Ignored Sunshine Law Requirements

Monday, November 12, 2012

Garry Morgan, a member of Bellefonte Efficiency & Sustainability Team, has filed a complaint with the TVA Inspector General’s Office noting that Tennessee Valley Authority Board’s appointment of Bill Johnson as the new CEO is invalid.  According to the complaint, TVA, a public agency, did not follow the requirements of the Federal Sunshine Act.   That act states that TVA shall make a public announcement of the time, place, and subject matter of each meeting, whether it is to be open or closed to the public, and the name and telephone number of a TVA official who can respond to requests for information about the meeting. 

Mr. Morgan writes in the complaint, “If the Board of Directors are allowed to conduct business in such a manner that promotes secrecy instead of openness, the public's faith and trust will be seriously diminished in the TVA. I am not asking for the board to disclose personal, confidential information about the candidates for the TVA CEO position, but I am asking the TVA Board of Directors to comply with the notice requirements of the Sunshine Act concerning when they meet, regardless of the manner of the meeting as required by the Sunshine Law. 

In response to an inquiry regarding the process, TVA ombudsman Wilson Taylor, responded by e-mail on Nov. 7 and states, “The board members voted to approve the appointment of Bill Johnson through a notational process, without holding a meeting. This approach maintains the confidentiality of the candidates and provides clear adherence to the governance guidelines.  No further vote of the board is required."   

“The TVA may call it whatever they want, it does not reduce their responsibility to follow the law,” asserts Mr. Morgan, BEST member. He adds, “The TVA did not notify the public as to place or time of the meeting/decision as required by law; they are required to make a public announcement of the time, place, and subject matter of each meeting whether it is to be open or closed to the public, and the name and telephone number of a TVA official who can respond to requests for information about the meeting.”

BEST points out that the selection of the TVA CEO did not comply with the Criteria for Notational Approvals policy and that using that process does not remove the legal requirement for the TVA Board to comply with the Federal Sunshine Act. The criteria for using a notational process require the issue to be both time sensitive and confidential, but neither appear valid in this instance, they maintain. A Board Practices Resolution passed by the TVA Board in 2006 states “This notational approval process must be carried out in a way that is fully consistent with the Board’s responsibility to exercise careful and prudent oversight and their ability to lead TVA with integrity and open and transparent accountability.”  The final vote and announcement should have been conducted in an open and transparent way during the TVA Board meeting after public notification of the ongoing process, BEST officials said.   

The next TVA Board meeting is scheduled for Thursday in Rainsville, Ala.  The meeting is open to the public.  

BEST/MATRR is a chapter of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, a 501(C)3 non-profit organization.

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