August 15, 2008

Bristol moves to take on CL&P over past billing errors

The city is angling to overturn a state ruling in hopes of nabbing more than $300,000 beyond what regulators agreed that Connecticut Light & Power owes Bristol for past billing mistakes.
To get the cash, city attorneys and consultants will have to convince Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, the state Department of Public Utility Control or a state court to reopen the issue and allow it to make the case that the $86,000 offered by CL&P for streetlight billing errors is inadequate.
“It’s not going to be a quick fix,” said city Councilor Cliff Block.
Municipal Energy, the consultant hired by the city to handle the issue, says it has found more than $400,000 in past billing errors – money it says the taxpayers should get, plus interest that could swell the total.
Mitch Gross, spokesman for the power company, said that after “a very thorough process” that met with the approval of the attorney general and the DPUC, the company issued checks to municipalities that had been overcharged, including Bristol.
Because there had been “some shortcomings in our process” for billing on streetlights, Gross said, “We did what we had to do to clarify the situation.”
“We dug deep into our records to bring this to a conclusion. Regulators were satisfied with our accounting. When we issued checks, we closed the books on this issue,” he said.
What Bristol is aiming for is to convince authorities to reopen the books.
City Councilor Mike Rimcoski said that CL&P demonstrated “very poor bookkeeping and mismanagement” over the years.
The utility “is not a friend of the people” in the way it has handled the entire issue, he said.
“Mike Tyson went to jail for what CL&P is doing to the citizens of Connecticut,” Rimcoski said.
Tyson, a former heavyweight boxing champion, served three years in an Indiana prison following his 1992 conviction for rape.
Gross said he didn’t want to respond to Rimcoski’s comments.
Rimcoski joked that he’ll have to keep a close eye on his electricity bills in the future.
Ken Johnson, president of Municipal Energy, said that the city “has been absolutely wonderful” in its cooperation with his firm to nail down past mistakes on the streetlight billing.
Johnson’s firm represents 50 cities and towns that are challenging CL&P’s refunds. Bristol is one of the first to reach the point where it is ready to make a formal appeal to change the ruling.
Block said that any extra money won’t come for a long time.
The first step, he said, is to convince Blumenthal to side with the municipalities that believe they were shortchanged by the DPUC decision.
“Ultimately, we need to make a very convincing case” that can sway Blumenthal and others to the belief “that CL&P has not provided a full and fair settlement.”
It’s likely to take at least a couple of years to complete the appeal, Johnson said.
Municipal Energy was hired a year and a half ago for $10,000 plus 15 percent of whatever the city earns above $86,000 originally offered by the utility giant.
Bristol has been in the forefront of the fight over streetlight billing because its public works department kept old billing records that showed in detail when lights were installed or removed and how the billing took place.
Few municipalities have anything close to the detail available in Bristol’s records.

Here are a number of reports from Municipal Energy that lay out in detail what's at the root of the controversy. The company's president, Ken Johnson, kindly provided them at my request.

Municipal Energy Report to the Streetlight Committee (April 3, 2008)

Energy's Bristol's Refund Calculation Summary

Municipal Energy New Found Report on March 2, 2008

Municipal Energy New Found Lights (March 7, 2008)

Municipal Energy's New Found spreadsheet

*******
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

31 comments:

Odin said...

"Bristol has been in the forefront of the fight over streetlight billing because its public works department kept old billing records that showed in detail when lights were installed or removed and how the billing took place. Few municipalities have anything close to the detail available in Bristol’s records."

And the reason Bristol has these records is because a one very diligent City employee, now retired, had the foresight to keep these old records when many other towns would have thrown them out.

Anonymous said...

Yes, let's definitely highlight the city employee - Paul Kowalczyk - who better represents the diligence of many city employees - as opposed to the negativity associated with them by posters on this site. Thanks Paul!

Anonymous said...

I hope that the city is keeping track of the costs it is incurring and subtracts that from the amount used to calculate the amount that the consultant will get.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Paul K.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure that that employee did that all on his or her own.

Maybe other people deserve some acknowledgement too.

Anonymous said...

Of course Rimcoski has to say that. He voted for that ludicrous contract and then didn't question what was being done (NOT).

Anonymous said...

Are we sure that CL&P isn't running the town budget and the vast scope of projects we are over our heads in?? .... seems like the Town and CL&P went to the same business school together and learned similar inadequacies.

Anonymous said...

Guess Rimcoski is back on the republican bandwagon.

Anonymous said...

Who will be covering our legal fees and costs?

AnonymousWestconnStudent said...

Props to Mr. Kowalczyk and public works!

Anonymous said...

$300,000...wow that's not even enough to pay our Hero Paul K's pension.

Anonymous said...

So now we find that Paul K. did all the work, we have to pay for the lawyers, ours and others, and Ken Johnson got $10K and possibly more.

Just what did he do, if anything?

We may criticize Couture, but at least he refused to hire Ken Johnson.

Anonymous said...

This fisaco clearlt shows that politicians stick together.

Ward should be on top of this issue, but obviously he isn't.

Can ANYONE tell us just what Keeny Johnson has done for his lucrative ten thousand dollars?

Anonymous said...

You liberal Democrats are by far among the stupidest people in America.

The City of Bristol is receiving $380,000. eho cares what Ken Johnson gets paid, its over $300K more than Couture was going to settle for.

Ken Johnson offered the City two options - pay a retainer and a lower percentage of what they found - or pay no retainer and a higher pecentage. The City opted for the retainer.

Don't balme Ken Johnson - Blame your fellow liberal Democrats who controled the council and voted on the contract.

Paul kepted the records it didn't mean he did the work.

stupid people

Anonymous said...

First I thought Ken Johnson was no longer involved with the street light issue. I was under the impression that he stepped away from the company when he was running for mayor.

I also recall that Ken accused the city of not cooperating with the his company and that was the reason for the delay. Now he says they ahve been wonderful??? Which is it?

Anonymous said...

Ken Johnson will receive much more than the $10,000 he was already paid.

Anonymous said...

August 16, 2008 5:04 PM:

Yeah, I COULD tell you, but you're apparently already convinced that it's just a scam, so why should I bother?

Anonymous said...

Ken Johnson never actually transferred ownership of his company. He claimed during the campaign that he was going to do that but he "stopped the process" as soon as he lost the election which means he never actually did it.

If you assume that CL&P does in fact owe and pay the City $330,000 then Ken Johnson stands to earn a total of $46,600! According to published reports his contract was a $10k retainer + 15% of the amount collected over $86k or: 330,000-86,000 = $244,000 x 15% = $36,600 + $10,000 (already paid) = $46,600.

That means the City would net $330,000 - 46,600 = $283,400 or $197,400 more than CL&P offered. Not bad.

But, if Blumenthal and the DPUC are involved it almost assuredly will involve a protracted legal battle with the AG's office, the DPUC and, let's not forget the CL&P legal staff. Don't hold your breath for the check.

But, after reading the reports that Steve posted in this blog from Johnson to the City it appears all he did was compare the old bills the City had on file to a printout from CL&P, create a spreadsheet or two and drive around and photograph a bunch of utility poles. Doesn't seem like $46,600 worth of work to me.

I love my Johnson said...

August 16, 2008 5:29 PM;

Yeah!

Go Johnson Go Johnson Go Johnson GO!

Anonymous said...

"Go Johnson Go Johnson Go Johnson GO!"

...and keep on going (somewhere... anywhere else but Bristol)

Anonymous said...

Johnson will milk this for 3-4 years. And we will end up having lost money!

What about the other towns, has Steve checked with any of them?
Has Bristol checked with any of them?

Or is Johnson just using Bristol? (I know, silly question).

Anonymous said...

What a Huckster!!!

we need a Johnson not a limp noodle said...

August 17, 2008 8:02 AM;

Don't bet on that ever happening!

Anonymous said...

Why do I get the feeling that we have been had?


Course, it could have been worse, he could have been elected mayor.

Anonymous said...

Ward won't make any progress in this area. Bothe Minor and MCauley want Johnson to be mayor and Cockayne and Rimcoski are republicans.

And the city takes the beating.

Anonymous said...

"We need a Johnson not a limp noodle"

~ How can you tell the difference? Both are slimy and spineless...except the noodle won't have a temper tantrum if you get it mad! ;-}

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU BILL STORTZ!

Anonymous said...

Are we keeping track of all of our efforts and what they are costing us so that we can subtract that from what Kenny thinks he shoud get for doing virtually nothing?

Anonymous said...

Hey 6:29. Ask Ken Johnson!

Anonymous said...

And 3:37 ask Ken Johnson why it's so expensive to charge consultant fees!!

Anonymous said...

If Cl&P is where Ken Johnson acquired his business skill, then we are in for some tough times if he becomes mayor.