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LCUB staffs lobbyist


A Lenoir City Utilities Board customer has taken issue with LCUB’s decision to hire a lobbyist that also is a former state representative and a supposed political ally of Lenoir City Mayor Tony Aikens.

Doug Gunnels was hired by LCUB as a lobbyist for a reported annual salary of $40,000.

“My biggest concern, after getting a $642.59 utility bill for 34 days, is, you know, it’s a little upsetting to hear they’re spending money so casually,” LCUB customer Pat Hunter said.

“And also, I’m like 80 percent of the LCUB ratepayers that do not live in the corporate [Lenoir] City limits, so we have no representation,” she added.

LCUB general manager Shannon Littleton did not immediately return calls.

LCUB’s Board largely is comprised of the same members of Lenoir City Council, with the addition of two Knox County representatives, both appointed by the Knox County mayor’s office. One appointee, Joel Garber, also is a former Farragut alderman. The other appointee is Pat Beasley.


Beasley and Garber both are voting members of LCUB’s nine-member board.

“The people from Lenoir City elect the majority of the Board and they can replace them. I can’t,” Hunter said.

Gunnels is listed on the Tennessee Ethics Commission website as LCUB’s only lobbyist, and apparently the first. Other area utility districts, such as First Utility District and Knoxville Utilities Board, do not appear to have lobbyists, according to the TEC website.

However, numerous other entities, municipalities and companies do, ranging from Motorola to the Knoxville Chamber.

“I guess my biggest concern is the operation of LCUB,” Hunter said.

“We have no control over their spending, and a lot of it goes to Board members and their relatives that they hire. It’s filled with nepotism and patronage, and we have to pay for all of that.

“The worst thing is that they just keep adding more and more relatives,” she added.

Hunter said LCUB had “come a long way” in their service, but she was still concerned with the representation of Knox County customers on the Board.

According to Knox County Mayor’s Office communications manager Michael Grider, Mayor Tim Burchett could re-appoint or replace Beasley and Garber when their terms expire.

LCUB, which is a multi-county utility district, operates via regulations set down in special enabling legislation.

In a typical appointment process, Grider said, the Knox County mayor would submit a name or several names to LCUB for a vacant position. Lenoir City Council would approve one or more of those names, depending on the number of vacancies.

Gunnels was not hired at the regularly scheduled LCUB Board meeting in January. He apparently was hired at a specially called meeting, and is listed as registering on the Tennessee Ethics Commission website Feb. 1.

For more information on lobbyists, visit the TEC website at www.tn.gov/sos/tec/

 

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