Board members have been meeting privately in committees, and on conference calls and closed sessions over the past month and a half — all without the public knowing. The Tennessean has learned of four meetings since Dec. 22 that the TVA describes as “briefings,” in which board members were present in Knoxville or on conference calls with management. The same type of unannounced, private meetings occurred before the spill, too.
The sessions call into question whether the board that oversees the electricity provider serving Tennessee and parts of six other states is pushing the boundaries, or even possibly violating, the federal Sunshine law. The law requires members to conduct meetings in public.
UPDATE: KnoxNews's Scott Barker laid out a proper antidote for TVA's closeted hush-hush in the weekend Wall Street Journal:
A few reasonable reforms could create incentives within the government to provide better oversight of TVA. If Congress paid for nonpower operations, most of which are performed elsewhere by federal agencies anyway, it would have a compelling reason to keep an eye on the utility. Putting TVA under the supervision of the Energy Department -- which already runs a national laboratory and a nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge, Tenn. -- would make TVA answerable to the executive branch. The key is to put an easily identifiable policy maker in the hot seat to hold accountable if another spill occurs.
UPDATE: Last week R. Neal reported that TVA is also shielding area well water from independent tests for toxins.
UPDATE: Today R. Neal points out that the board spends $1,000,000 to fund their secret meetings. I wonder if those are just utility rate-payer funds or also public revenues?