WKU Public Radio News Staff
Wed February 19, 2014
Rep. Yonts Meets With TVA Officials, Will Continue Inquiry Into Board Transparency
A Kentucky state legislator says he’s continuing his inquiry into Tennessee Valley Authority board meeting procedures a month after requesting documents from the company.
State Representative Brent Yonts (D-Greenville) attended a TVA board meeting in November where members voted to shutter some generating units at the Paradise Steam Plant in Muhlenberg County.
Yonts said he was flabbergasted to see the processes on which the TVA Board conducts its meetings.
Yonts said the vote to close the units came with no debate or meaningful discussion other than a vote based upon a motion prepared by someone other than the board members.
In January, Yonts sent a letter to the TVA criticizing the board’s lack of transparency and requested several documents from the company under the Freedom of Information Act including previous board meeting minutes and the data the board based its decisions on.
TVA Spokesman Scott Brooks says officials met with Yonts at his office in Frankfort.
"Government relations staff met with Representative Yonts up in Kentucky within the last couple of weeks and discussed his concerns in person," said Brooks. "We’re always looking for input from the public and that includes our public officials so we appreciate his input and we’re always trying to improve our processes."
Yonts says the requested documents were delivered by hand and that he plans to review all the data before deciding on what to do next.
"They’ve given me what I asked for and I’m smart enough to know that I’m not going to wrestle down the mighty bear by myself," said Yonts. "So I’ve got their attention, they’re listening to what I say and they’re providing me with information. So as long as they do that right now, I will be happy, if they change course on something, I’ll get more engaged."
The TVA, a federally-owned corporation, argued that any committee meetings that took place prior to the November open meeting Yonts attended fall under a federal law which doesn’t require them to be public.
"The board meetings themselves are always public and are broadcast over our internet feed so it’s a pretty open process," said Brooks. "The rest of the process, the committees and everything, that’s something we discussed with Representative Yonts.”
"They explained that under federal rules it’s different that state rules on open meetings and any meeting they had before had were talking with committees of three and were not open meeting under federal law," Yonts said. "I’m not happy with what they’re doing, don’t misunderstand me I’m just saying I know that’s what they’re doing and I also know there’s probably not anything I can do about it because it’s the United States government."
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway also criticized the TVA meeting on similar grounds but Yonts says whatever inquiry the AG has is not in conjunction with his own.
"But the fact that two state officials have raised concerns about the process has gotten the attention of the TVA," said Yonts. "So I guess that's the bottom line."
Yonts says he'll continue dialogue with the TVA through further meetings in the hopes to improve the company's public transparency.