Utility Board Decision: SEMO.net Owes Disputed Portion of Invoices

Jul 18, 2012

It’s not that I expected anything different, but I certainly went to the MU Advisory Board meeting on Monday with a glimmer of hope that these five businessmen of our community on that board would challenge the city employees or ask them to prove their statements.

Remember: I’ve paid a large portion of the disputed bills – the approximate amount we would have been billed if the city hadn’t raised our rates to an ungodly amount based on poorly-conceived accounting practices.

I’ve not been given my copy of the document Mr. Bach presented to the board regarding my disputed invoices. Until I have an opportunity to see that document, I don’t really know much about how Mr. Bach informed the board.

But the meeting went like this:

Bach presented his letter and said he thinks that the board should not accept the dispute.

Bach then misrepresented a couple of my points from the week before and argued against his misrepresentation (see below for an example) and, thus, appeared to be right.

Several of the board members asked questions of Mr. Bach like, “So, you think your calculations are correct?” And, “You think Mr. Becker is wrong?”  Nothing resembling the probing questions I had requested of them. For example, “How can you justify the principal payment of $750,000 as a line-item expense…don’t accounting principles teach that a loan payment is not an expense?”

In other words, this board did exactly the same thing they did two years ago when all this started. They accepted Mr Bach’s information as gospel because the city’s own C.P.A. agrees with Mr. Bach. Ah…hello…does anyone other than me suspect that she’d be fired if she said anything less?

Two weeks ago during the hearing I implored the board to put out a public statement that SEMO.net was never subsidized by the City of Poplar Bluff like Mr. Bach and other officials repeatedly quoted to the DAR.  But they’ve evidently ignored that request as well.

I requested to speak a couple of times by clearing my throat and having my hand raised but no one on the board would look at me or offer me the floor. With the DAR there reporting the meeting, I had a very keen sense that if I spoke without being called on they would have escorted me from the meeting. Been there…done that.

I’ll appeal this decision as the City’s Dispute Policy states and we’ll do this entire hearing all over again with the City Council in August (televised). I don’t expect any different outcome unless the community decides to rise up and speak to their council members on my behalf to put public pressure on them to vote to drop this dispute and the lawsuit against me.

If the City Council rules against me, we will go back to a jury trial setting.

Example of a Misrepresentation:
Becker at July 2nd meeting
Mr. Bach’s calculations include $111,000 of “Installation expense” as a cost of Open Access. But Mr. Bach doesn’t tell you that the city charges the customer for installations and each of the last five years the city generates more “Installation Income” than “Installation Expense”. [at this point I put up a spreadsheet on the overhead showing the Installation income and expense for City Cable for each of the past five years] I conclude that since the city is fully compensated for installations, Mr. Bach should not charge any portion of the $111,000 of Installation Expense as a cost of Open Access. 

Mr. Bach on July 16th
Mr. Becker told you that Installation Expenses are only for the television side of our business only and doesn’t have anything to do with Cable Internet. But that’s not true because these installation expenses are for both departments so the $111,000 expense is valid.

I’ve dealt with this for two years…I wish our Municipal Utilities was run by an honest, goodhearted, decent public servant.

  1. Semaj

    I’ve been in Poplar Bluff 19 months and I am amazed that Municipal Utilities has so much power over the citizens of this town. If too many people put up a fuss, they will have a board meeting to prove to themselves how right they are. The people still feel cheated but what we really need is someone to stand and fight. I wish I had the time and energy but, like most, I have to get to work and make a living. I wonder if there were someway to make a full time job of fighting M U’s injustices.

    It is no surprise that Poplar Bluff’s population hasn’t increased in decades, while facing so much adversity in this town, most leave as fast as others move in.

  2. Ruthie Carter

    No surprise here. With the entrenched corruption in this city, we all knew this would happen. I sure wish you could get to the actual trial. It, too, may go against you, but at least it wouldn’t be a stacked deck like you have been fighting against. I wish you luck. We all need you back in business and fully functioning.

  3. Bob Harwell

    when i read that you’d meet with the MU board, I assumed that would be the outcome, don’t wanna give in to the people that will give us money attitude prevailed. No surprise there. MU’s cable won’t be around long anyway, I don’t think, as they’ve left too many sour tastes & the technology that is evolving will leave them behind anyway. Just look at their cable TV bill which is priced so much higher than Dish or Direct sateliite,which may put them in a position where they will probably lose customers that they haven’t lost already. I’m just an old man but I see them the same way I see AT&T. With reirement approaching quick I’ll no longer need a land line or cable TV.
    Savings on phone- roughly $80.00 a month
    Savings on cable –roughly $25.00 a month
    The feeling I have kowing the city’s not getting that money- Priceless.