EPB admits it over billed the City of Chattanooga for street lig - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

EPB admits it over billed the City of Chattanooga for street lights

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - EPB management is acknowledging it over billed the City of Chattanooga for running the city's street lights. After months of back and forth, the company released the findings of an independent audit saying it owes the city around $17,000. But those findings are more than $1 million off from an audit done by the City of Chattanooga.

"It's total fiction. There has been no over billing," said EPB CEO Harold DePriest, in an interview with Channel 3 in May.

In a Tuesday news conference, DePriest acknowledged EPB did over bill the city.

"We spoke a little too soon. There were other facts that we weren't aware of at the time," said DePriest.

The latest audit report from accounting firm Mauldin and Jenkins shows over a seven year period, EPB over billed the city by $1,539,274. But it factors two issues in to the equation, it says, were not considered in the city audit: the street light system as a whole burned 177 hours longer each year and used five percent more power due to line losses than previously reported. Those unbilled costs result in a $17,047 difference, which is owed to the city.

The city audit found EPB owes $1.2 million without those factors included.  

"I don't like any mistakes. Seventeen thousand dollars bothers me, any mistake I don't like," said DePriest.

City auditor Stan Sewell tells Channel 3 he stands by the original audit but could not comment on the latest Mauldin and Jenkins audit until he had more time to review it.

In the meantime, EPB is facing a $10 million civil lawsuit from Global Green Lighting CEO Don Lepard, who says he discovered the billing discrepancies when his company was tapped to replace all city street lights with his LEDs. It was a deal later axed by Mayor Berke.

"It appears that he's angry he didn't sell enough lights to the city and somehow we're responsible and this lawsuit is his way of striking out at us," said DePriest, referring to Lepard's lawsuit.

Don Lepard tells Channel 3, in part, "There have been multiple attempts from EPB to resolve this, but those have only resulted in multiple outcomes…The best way to get a total amount owed to the city is to gather all the documents in discovery that support these claims, present those to the court and let a jury hear it."

DePriest says Lepard's lawsuit is slowing down progress on finding middle ground with the city, and EPB plans to file a motion to have it dismissed.

Mayor Berke's office had no comment on the latest audit findings, only referring to a previous statement in which the mayor hopes to resolve any discrepancies and find a way to make sure future bills are accurate from EPB.  
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