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MLGW Won’t Discuss Failure to Post Financial Disclosure Forms

Two weeks after an IPSR investigation found the city-owned utility wasn’t posting disclosures, officials are mum

Memphis Light, Gas & Water’s headquarters in downtown Memphis. MLGW officials won’t discuss a failure to honor a 2007 transparency pledge. (Daily Memphian file photo)

Two weeks after a digital news investigation found that Memphis Light, Gas & Water is not honoring a 2007 transparency pledge, the city-owned utility is powering down discussion of the matter.

“MLGW has no further comment,’’ spokeswoman Lillian Johnson said in an email.

Johnson’s email followed a request by the Institute for Public Service Reporting to interview MLGW President J.T. Young about the utility’s failure to post on the Internet the personal financial disclosure statements of board members, top executives and key employees.

MLGW pledged in its 2007 ethics policy to “promptly and prominently’’ post those filings on the Internet to help the public identify sources of income that may pose a conflict of interest. Specifically, the policy — still in place — calls for the forms to be posted on the website of “the joint Memphis-Shelby County Board of Ethics,’’ an entity that doesn’t exist.

Officials contemplated creating the agency in 2007 but never did.

An opens in a new windowinquiry by The Institute found that MLGW never pivoted to find another website to post disclosures.

Following the initial article, the news organization attempted to interview Young to see if he would recommend that the board update the ethics policy and begin posting the forms on the web.

MLGW initially said Young was unavailable, but that the utility would provide a written answer.

“…We are working on providing a statement. We are currently in an outage crisis due to the weather and will try to get the information to you soon,’’ spokeswoman Angelika Woods said in a Feb. 3 email.

Then MLGW shifted course.

“We have no comment at this time,’’ Woods said in a Feb. 7 email, saying there would be no statement. Later the same day, Johnson followed up with her “no further comment’’ email.

MLGW did not respond Monday to a renewed request for information about the forms.

Transparency advocate Dick Williams said MLGW should stop trying “to dodge the issue” and just put the forms on the web.

“Well, number one, it’s in the public interest for them to do such a thing,’’ said Williams, chairman of Common Cause Tennessee, a nonpartisan group that advocates for ethics and transparency in government.

“And then specifically, if they claimed that they were going to do it, then there’s even a larger burden on them to do what they need to do to make it happen. The fact that this specific agency that they claimed they would use doesn’t exist doesn’t eliminate the fact that the need is still there.’

Written By

Marc Perrusquia is the director of the Institute for Public Service Reporting at the University of Memphis, where graduate students learn investigative and explanatory journalism skills working alongside professionals. He has won numerous state and national awards for government watchdog, social justice and political reporting.

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