Former TVA director DePriest faces financial woes

COLUMBUS – Former Tennessee Valley Authority board member Don DePriest of Columbus owes more than $1.1 million in back taxes and faces a lawsuit alleging he failed to repay loans and and misled investors in his telecommunications companies.
The Knoxville New Sentinel reported Sunday that a lien notice filed Feb. 23 in Chancery Court in Columbus says DePriest owes the Internal Revenue Service $1.123 million in unpaid employment taxes between Jan. 1, 2005, and June 30, 2007.
The IRS assessed the penalty May 26, 2008, and filed the lien when the penalty went unpaid nine months later.
DePriest’s term on the TVA board was set to expire May 18, although he intended to stay on until his replacement was confirmed.
However, he resigned abruptly last week, the same day that a News Sentinel reporter called DePriest’s lawyer and private business office in Columbus about the tax and legal issues, the newspaper said.
Wednesday, a Daily Journal call to DePriest’s home for comment went unanswered.
The IRS said DePriest did not pay withholding taxes on employees, although it didn’t identify which of his companies didn’t pay or how many employees were involved.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican and co-chair of the TVA Congressional Caucus, said in a statement Friday that DePriest’s departure was appropriate.
Other troubles
DePriest also is being sued by Columbus business associate Oliver L. Phillips Jr., who says DePriest owed him more than $12 million, plus interest, stock and unpaid profits. A Franklin, Tenn., investor also has sued him over similar complaints.
DePriest owns or has owned several businesses, mobile phone companies and some that operated overseas.
President George W. Bush appointed him to the TVA board when it expanded from three to nine members, and he as confirmed by the Senate in 2006. At that time, he touted his business skills and stressed the importance of ethics before the Environment and Public Works Committee.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or


Patsy R. Brumfield/Daily Journal

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