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NEWPORT—Glenn Ray, General Manager of Newport Utilities, was placed on paid administrative leave Tuesday morning as the State Comptroller continues to investigate the utility.

Outside counsel made the suggestion to place Ray on leave while the investigation is being performed.

Newport Utilities Board Chair Craig Wild stated during the meeting that placing Ray on leave was based on that suggestion, and that no determinations or conclusions have been made by the board or their counsel based on the investigation. He also noted this move is being made as a non-disciplinary action.

Michael Williford, CFO at Newport Utilities, will take over Ray’s responsibilities while he is on leave.

Wild read the following letter during the monthly board meeting.

“As reported at our last meeting, the Board was informed in late September that the Tennessee Comptroller’s office had begun an investigation into the Utility. At that time, we also publicly affirmed our commitment for the Utility to fully cooperate with the Comptroller’s investigation and to ensure that there would be no retaliation against any individual for cooperating with the Comptroller’s office or otherwise participating in the investigation.

“The Board also indicated in its meeting last month that we were prepared to take any and all steps necessary to protect the integrity of this or any other internal or external investigation, as well as the integrity of the Utility as a whole. On that basis, the Board passed motions last month related to certain financial practices of the Utility going forward, including the implementation of the Audit Committee that we have already heard from in this meeting.

“Again, all of these steps have been and are being taken by the Board to demonstrate complete cooperation with investigators and to affirm the Utility’s continued commitment to full legal and regulatory compliance going forward in every respect. We continue to take these matters very seriously and, as such, the Board will continue to implement actions and efforts to meet its stated objectives off full cooperation and compliance. In that regard, the Board has consulted with outside legal counsel regarding certain best practices related to key Utility personnel that it should consider at this time. One of those best practices is to place the General Manager of the Utility on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of ongoing investigations.

“Very importantly, I would note that this suggestion made by outside counsel, DOES NOT mean, NOR SHOULD the suggestion BE TAKEN TO MEAN, that the Board or its counsel have made any determinations or conclusions as a result of any ongoing investigation. As previously stated, the action as suggested would be ADMINISTRATIVE in nature, fully paid, and specifically NONDISCIPLINARY, pending the outcome of the ongoing investigations.”

In addition to creating an audit committee, at last months meeting Wild also requested temporarily suspending any hiring or firing on behalf of the utility without prior approval of the board, to be effective immediately and remain in effect during the pendency of the State Comptroller’s investigation.

The board also agreed during that meeting to temporarily suspend all utility expenditures, except those that are necessary to the ordinary operation of the utility, without prior approval of the board, to be effective immediately and remain in effect during the pendency of the investigation.

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