NEWPORT—Federal investigators arrived at Newport Utilities on Tuesday, July 28, apparently as part of an ongoing investigation into “alleged irregularities” at the company dating back several months.
In October of 2019, members of the NU Board of Directors were told that the State of Tennessee Comptroller’s office had launched an investigation into the utility. As a result, the board placed then-General Manager Glenn Ray on administrative leave pending the investigation’s findings and later appointed NU Finance Director Michael Williford as Interim Manager.
Meeting Tuesday, July 28, the board tendered an offer to Williford to accept the General Manager’s position at a salary of $175,000 per year, plus back pay for the month’s he has already fulfilled those duties. The three-year contract is subject to Williford’s acceptance.
In January of 2020, Ray submitted a letter announcing his retirement, but the board instead accepted it as a letter of resignation, saying that he did not qualify for retirement benefits.
Few details of the ongoing investigation have surfaced because of a gag order placed on the board by the Comptroller’s Office.
At the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting, Williford told board members, “I was under the impression that the comptroller was coming today and that we would have their investigators here. When I got in today, I was actually handed a federal subpoena, and so we do have federal investigators in the building today.”
At that point, NU Attorney Jeff Greene quickly interjected, “We’re still in our open meeting right now, but I would like, when we end this meeting, to go into executive session and discuss the federal investigators who are in the building today, and the federal subpoena.”
Williford has been associated with Newport Utilities since March of 2019. Prior to that he was Accounting Manager for the City of Oak Ridge. Earlier work experience includes two years with the Sevier County Electric System, over seven and a half years with TVA, and over six years with Clayton Homes.
He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from UTK (2000) and an MBA in Finance from Tennessee Technological University (2008).
Clint Hammonds, NU VP of Operations, updated the board on the current water project, stating the part for the Rock City and Newport areas has been completed with working continuing in the Bridgeport area.
Joni Daniel, Finance and Accounting VP, received permission to write off over $80,000 in losses for the period from Sept. 19 to March 20.