PSC: No discrimination in $18,000 power bill

county_tishomingo_greenBy Lena Mitchell

Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

IUKA – The Tishomingo County Electric Power Association will meet at 6 p.m. Monday and may resume discussion of a business customer’s appeal of a more than $18,000 power bill.

Pattie Ferguson, owner of Pattie’s One Stop in Tishomingo, had appealed the bill which includes about two years of charges which the power company had failed to bill.

In addition to requesting relief from the power association board, Ferguson also filed an appeal with the Mississippi Public Service Commission.

In a closed-door session Friday, PSC Northern District Commissioner Brandon Presley met with TCEPA General Manager Robert Grisham, TCEPA board member Kenneth “Chubby” Clingan, TCEPA board attorney Steve Jackson, TVA District Manager John Malone, Michael Callahan of Electric Power Associations of Mississippi, Ferguson and others to discuss possible resolution of the late billing.

“The first thing is we found there was no discriminatory act, that Ms. Ferguson was not singled out in this case, but that it was the result of human error by the power association,” Presley said. “My recommendation and suggestion is that the board adopt a policy that would apply to situations like this, those that occurred before and those going forward. The power company should absorb some of these charges when they make a mistake like this. It causes a loss of revenue when their people make a mistake, and that’s the way it works in the real world. They could say if the customer is underbilled more than six months, the customer pays six months and the board pays the rest.”

Whether the power company board will act favorably on Presley’s recommendation may be seen at Monday’s meeting, but Presley said his stance was met by strong opposition from the Tennessee Valley Authority representative.

“TVA being the bully against consumers that it can be at times, said in the meeting that they didn’t think the board could adopt a policy like that,” Presley said. “TVA is 100 percent wrong. The board ought to have the right to do it. If they’re not going to hold power company employees accountable, what incentive is there for employees to make sure they’re doing their jobs right?”

TCEPA attorney Jackson said he didn’t know if the board would address the Ferguson bill again at Monday’s meeting or not, since the PSC found they had not discriminated in the case, and the board had given Ferguson extra time to pay the bill.

The TVA representative threatened to bring a lawsuit against TCEPA if they sought to implement such a policy, Presley said.

“I plan to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the power company board if they make this policy change,” Presley said. “For TVA to even suggest they would take action against them is crazy.”

In December 2013, TCEPA’s Grisham hand-delivered a power bill to Ferguson with an amount due of $18,617.

She was offered a payment plan for the underbilled amount, paying $450 every two weeks until the balance is paid or $150 per month in addition to her regular power bill, a payment plan Ferguson has not agreed to. However, she is paying her regular monthly bill of about $850 as it comes due.

The underbilled amount covers a period of about two-and-a-half years, which Ferguson has said is the power company’s fault and she should not have to pay.

“The local people are going to be fair, but TVA is worried about a bill in Mississippi that is $18,000, and their CEO is the highest-paid federal employee,” Presley said. “He makes more than the president of the United States. They ought to get their priorities in line.”

lena.mitchell@journalinc.com