Electric Utility Board Member Marc McDougal held a press conference Thursday, defending himself against charges that he would stand to "personally benefit" from killing the current LP&L expansion proposal and raising serious questions about the conduct of Lubbock Power and Light CEO Gary Zheng.
Zheng made the allegations in a conversation with the Sandstorm Scholar blog earlier this week.
"There are some people who want to kill this thing," Zheng said. "I think potentially they may financially benefit. They may personally benefit from it."
McDougal called this allegation "ludicrous and untrue."
Further, McDougal said that Alpine Energy Group (AEG) was allowed to provide the template for the Request for Proposal that laid out the plan for Lubbock's energy generation for 2019 and beyond. McDougal said the template for the RFP came from a consultant working with AEG, but when he asked the LP&L CEO about it directly, Zheng said he did not know where the RFP came from.
Zheng indicated that one or two LP&L employees put it together.
When McDougal asked to speak with those employees, one of them said the plan came from Zheng. McDougal said Zheng then "remembered" the consultant's involvement in the proposal.
McDougal said Zheng "only remembered after he knew that we knew the truth."
McDougal said Zheng admitted that he only attended one of the five meetings set up with bidders, the meeting with AEG, and given the size and scope of the expenditure, "I have concerns that our top executive does not feel it is important enough to attend all five."
McDougal also expressed concerns about AEG's competence, saying "They have zero experience."
"There are many valid reasons to oppose this," McDougal said. "The simple appearance of what has taken place...makes the board's best option to reject all bids."
McDougal says he stands by his vote against Zheng's continued employment and has asked that the matter be brought up again Monday for another vote.
Last week, the board voted to bring in outside counsel to investigate the bid process.
When asked if he believed Dr. Zheng had done anything illegal, McDougal said, "I'm not making any of those accusations here. I'm just making accusations of how this process went and how it looks, and it doesn't look good."
Dr. Zheng issued this statement on Thursday afternoon:
In regards to statements that have been made concerning the RFP process itself and my role in that process, the Electric Utility Board voted unanimously this past week to hire a completely independent third-party firm to conduct a thorough audit of these matters. I applaud their decision to do so and will wait for the conclusion of their review.
It is clear there was a misunderstanding that may have come from the interview I conducted this week. It was not my intent to attack any member of the LP&L board. I have no information or reason to believe that any member of the Electric Utility Board has any ulterior motive in regards to the RFP for future generation. I truly believe the only motivation by each and every board member is to do everything in their power to assure that Lubbock has a reliable and affordable supply of electricity for the future.
I am committed to working with the Mayor and EUB members to ensure Lubbock has reliable and affordable electricity for all its citizens, now and in the future. It is of paramount importance that our team stay focused on the task at hand and continue to work to make the best long term decision for the City of Lubbock.
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