The Johnson City Power Board is expected to dive into the details Tuesday surrounding the appointment of Homer G’Fellers, the utility’s former president and CEO, during its regularly scheduled board meeting.
Power Board Chief Public Relations Officer Robert White said the preliminary audit report of the agency also is on Tuesday’s agenda, and will be covered in full at the meeting.
The meeting will come a week after the JCPB’s board of directors unanimously voted to request the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen postpone its appointment of G’Fellers for 90 days while attorney Erick Herrin investigates matters surrounding his appointment.
G’Fellers, who retired from his post after serving 38 years at the utility, was appointed to the Power Board’s board after Mary Gearhart’s resignation from the Jonesborough board. G’Fellers was named to serve out the remainder of her term in Jonesborough and to represent the town at the utility. Concerns surrounding G’Fellers’ appointment has been addressed by a number of board members.
At a special called meeting last week, Herrin pointed out three details that could complicate matters if the former CEO joins the board:
• The Power Board is currently searching for a new CEO.
• The preliminary audit has revealed a contract that appears to have been entered into beyond G’Fellers’ authority.
• The preliminary stages of the audit will likely result in new internal controls.
Despite the concerns addressed, Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe said discussions between the boards is ongoing, and he’s certain the situation will be “resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.”
“I have been talking with several folks over the last couple of weeks about the situation and believe that there is a way for everyone’s needs and concerns to be addressed. We certainly have enjoyed and continue to enjoy ... a great relationship with the Johnson City Power Board and we certainly appreciate the vital role they play as our power provider and in terms of economic development in our community,” he said.
Power Board member Joe Grandy said the hiring of Herrin as its legal counsel will hopefully keep anyone from making decisions before a full audit is complete.
“He’s a person who is familiar with governmental entities and the law that surrounds them without actually being a part of the organization as our internal counsel is. I think that brings a really good dimension to the process, and I have every expectation that we’re going to reach a conclusion that is, one, going to be correct, and, two, is going to be fair to everyone involved,” Grandy said.
One of the main concerns board members have expressed relates to how the appointment of the utility’s former CEO will impact the search for a replacement.
While Grandy doesn’t see any ethical questions surrounding such an appointment, he said there are two clear sides to the debate about G’Fellers’ appointment, one being that he brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the board.
The other side of the coin relates to a question of whether G’Fellers’ presence would intimidate new leadership who might want to move the Power Board in a new or different direction.
“At the end of the day, my opinion (is) it’s not a board decision as to whether or not Homer serves in that capacity. It’s a municipal decision by the town of Jonesborough, and I think our obligation as board members to work with the person they choose to represent the town of Jonesborough,” he said.
G’Fellers was scheduled to take his seat on the board Tuesday.
Wolfe said any change to appointments must be voted on by the full board.