Brownsville PUB planning to return $29 million to customers following failed energy project

4 months 1 week 6 days ago Saturday, January 14 2023 Jan 14, 2023 January 14, 2023 1:40 PM January 14, 2023 in News - Local

The Brownsville Public Utilities Board presented a timeline to give $29 million back to its customers after an audit revealed customers were overcharged for a failed energy project.

The preliminary timeline was presented during a Monday board meeting.

This comes after an October 2022 audit revealed Brownsville PUB customers were overcharged $118 million in increased rates to pay for a project between Brownsville PUB and the energy company Tenaska.

RELATED: Increased rates for Brownsville PUB customers continued after failed project, audit shows

Auditors found Brownsville PUB CEO John Bruciak and former Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez intentionally omitted key information to get the PUB board and Brownsville commissioners to approve the project, according to an executive summary. 

The report also states, among several other findings, both Bruciak and Martinez failed to notify commissioners about the project's doomed status while increasing rates. 

A total of $29 million remains from the Tenaska equity fund.

RELATED: Brownsville commissioners, BPUB leaders, continue to discuss failed project

Before the utility company can return the money, they are required to go through a four-step process laid out by a city ordinance to make sure that giving the money back won't hinder the company’s ability to deliver services to its customers.

The four steps include:

1) Designated financial officer issues certificate attesting system will generate sufficient revenues to cover debt service obligations.

2) Governing body makes a finding and determination in alignment with the certificate issued by the designated financial officer.

3) BPUB Board recommends action based on written certification from a nationally recognized consulting engineering firm.

4) Rating agencies provide letters affirming action will not result in a withdrawal or lowering of rating.

The timeline shows Brownsville commissioners would approve the fund distribution during a city commission meeting set for April 18.

Bruciak announced last week he was retiring from his position. He was placed on paid administrative leave following the release of the audit. 

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