LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — The Lansing Board of Water and Light Commissioners met Thursday night for a special meeting to hire a new internal auditor, and then in a special meeting with the Lansing City Council. This is the first meeting since 6 News reported exclusively on the firing of former BWL Internal Auditor Frank Macciocca.
A representative of the Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin presented an honor for the BWL’s response to severe storms in August.
Commissioners approve the appointment of Elisha Franco as the new internal auditor for the BWL. One Commissioner cast no votes on her appointment.
After a brief break, the Commissioners and City Council have called their meeting together.
During the Commissioner’s special meeting, one resident raised concerns about the lack of transparency related to the former Internal Auditor’s firing. A second resident raised concerns about new service turn-on fees, referring to them as draconian.
Resident Loretta Stanaway is addressing the joint meeting about concerns with upcoming rate increases and new peak hours charging proposals.
Dick Peffley reports the BWL provided $2 million more in the estimated return on investment payments to the city of Lansing last year.
Peffley says he does not expect the UAW strike to impact revenue for the utility.
The majority of damage from the major storm in August was in the south side of the city. Peffley says the damages exceeded the impact of the ice storm.
Peffley says 185 transforms were lost during the storm.
The full cost of the storm was “just a hair shade” of $9 million.
In a briefing on the BWL’s work to meet its 2030 goal of 50% renewable energy, Peffley says the move to solar and wind has been delayed in part as local communities push back on zoning changes to allow solar and wind installations.
Lansing City Council Member Brian Jackson, from the Fourth Ward, is grilling Peffley about renewable energy definitions and investments, particularly as it relates to the use of natural gas.
Council Member Adam Hussain, Third Ward, asks about the end of winter shut-off moratoriums.
The new 88-cent fee charged to each metered account will raise over $1 million for low-income bill pay assistance, says Peffley, the General Manager for BWL.
Peffley says previously the BWL has issued 4,000 shut-off notices at the end of annual moratoriums.
He says the new program will provide greater access to federal assistance programs.
“I am willing to give it a try to see if it is better for our customers over the long term,” he says.
“We are definitely going to make sure the money the customers put in comes back to our community,” he says.
Distribution of the money to support customers is controlled by outside agencies, says Customer Service Experience Executive Director. Councilmember Ryan Kost, First Ward, notes that not all people will qualify for third-party organizational support.
BWL electric customers will see a two percent increase in their bills in November.
Council President Carol Wood brings up the Internal Auditor issue.
“We’re hearing from constituents… understanding the thought process the money that was misused.. and how the decision was made to not try to recoup those dollars,” Wood says.
- Why are you not trying to re-coup the money?
- You had a policy, was it gone over by new hires and commissioners? Did people sign anything?
- Based on the information that you have received, what changes have you made?
“All employees, including the Commission employees, have P-Card training when they come in. They sign that they had the training and understood,” Peffley says.
“Of course, it being a personnel matter we cannot discuss it in any shape form, or manner,” BWL Chair Semone James tells Council.
James declines to explain why the Commission is not seeking reimbursement of the misused money by the former Internal Auditor, citing legal advice.
“There was something that wasn’t followed, but that has been corrected and we are following that,” says James in response to questions about how the spending did not get flagged sooner.
“It was handled appropriately,” James says. “The individual is no longer here. He did lose his job.”
James declines to answer where there has been a criminal referral to the Attorney General or the county prosecutor.
“I think this is still ongoing,” City Attorney Jim Smiertka says of the review and activity related to the former Internal Auditor.
In a heated exchange between Council Member Ryan Kost, First Ward; and BWL Chair Semone James — James alleges 6 News “harassed” her by visiting her home.