SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – After several leaders of the embattled South Fork Utility District (SFUD) resigned, Tennessee’s Utility Management Review Board (UMRB) voted Wednesday to dismiss its case against them.
According to John Dunn, director of communications for the Tennessee comptroller’s office, the case was dismissed after four of the five commissioners resigned. The only remaining commission is Jason Webb, who was not a member of the board when a majority of the utility district’s issues occurred.
The UMRB had been attempting to remove the commissioners from their roles in the utility district prior to the four resignations. The entire Wednesday meeting of the UMRB can be found online.
Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury Jason Mumpower issued a statement on the UMRB’s decision and governance of the SFUD.
“I appreciate the Utility Management Review Board’s decision to continue its efforts to improve the South Fork Utility District by ensuring sound financial and management practices. I’m also pleased that our investigation of the utility has led to the resignation of the South Fork commissioners involved in the utility’s questionable decisions. A strong utility relies on strong governance, and there is more work to be done by the new commissioners and the UMRB to review the management of this utility district going forward.”Jason Mumpower, Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury
The SFUD has been under scrutiny by the comptroller’s office since an investigation found potential conflicts of interest and “questionable payments” to former district manager Garry Smith.
Following the investigation, utility customers, state leadership and even Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable called for a change in leadership for the SFUD. In September, administrative law judge Phillip Hilliard will hear the UMRB’s arguments to dissolve the SFUD and force it to merge with the Bristol-Bluff City Utility District.