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City, WG&L sued over funds

ALBANY, Ga. -- The city of Albany, along with the Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission, violated a contract they had with a state electric cooperative and harmed rate payers by steering millions of dollars worth of rebate credits into their coffers, a lawsuit filed Thursday in Dougherty Superior Court contends.

Three Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission rate payers are seeking class-action status in a lawsuit filed against the city of Albany and WG&L. They contend the two entities knowingly violated terms of a trust agreement on how $70 million in revenues generated by rate payers would be disbursed.

Filed on behalf of Dianne Carr, Ardessa Floyd and P.J. Fabrics, the suit contends city leadership broke a contract with the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia's Competitive Trust by amending the City Charter in 2009 to allow revenues flowing back into the city from the MEAG Competitive Trust fund -- which had been a hedge against deregulation -- to the benefit of the taxpayer rather than as relief to the rate payers who paid the money into the fund originally.

City Attorney Nathan Davis said Thursday he had been contacted by phone by the lawyer for the plaintiffs, but he had neither been served nor seen a copy of the suit.

The MEAG trust was set up in 1999 among the 49 MEAG members in anticipation of what many believed was the imminent deregulation of the power industry.

When the movement to deregulate passed without any change, the MEAG members amended the agreement to allow for the funds to be returned to the member cities.

The plaintiffs contend that in September 2008, the first amendment to the trust agreement authorized MEAG "to apply funds from certain competitive trust accounts (including the account of the City and WGL) for the purpose of lowering participants' annual generation billings from MEAG during the period of 2009 through 2018."

They further contend the city and WG&L are limited in their use of the funds and that when the officials amended the City Charter on March 24, 2009 to divide the city's MEAG funds between WG&L's general fund, the City Commission's general fund and a longterm planning commission fund, they harmed the rate payers who had paid the money into the account.

The three are asking the court to issue an immediate injunction against both the city of Albany and WG&L to prevent them from spending any additional MEAG funds until a determination is made. The plaintiffs are asking that the court force both to comply with the agreement to the benefit of the rate payer, including awarding interest.