At a meeting Tuesday, City of Lubbock Electric Utility Board Chairman Gail Kring said that an alleged act of violence has been carried out against an employee of Lubbock’s City-owned utility.

Kring mentioned that recently, a Lubbock Power and Light vehicle had been shot at with the employee inside. Kring warned that negative rhetoric against the utility can lead to those grave consequences.

This prompted District 1 Lubbock City Councilman Victor Hernandez to release a statement regarding the issue.

Hernandez said “I will defend any citizen’s right to voice their opinion as to their local government and as to LP&L. However, I join Chairman Kring’s call to calm, as it relates to LP&L and especially in light of recent events.”

The press release from the City states that Hernandez has discussed the matter with Lubbock Police Chief Roger Ellis and City Attorney Sam Medina.

Hernandez has requested that the issues of security measures for City of Lubbock employees and security measures in general be placed for discussion in the Lubbock City Council’s closed-door executive session at their next regularly scheduled meeting.

Councilman Hernandez concluded, saying “I would also agree with LP&L Board Chairman Kring in saying that City of Lubbock employees, LP&L Board members and members of the City Council are the public’s sons and daughters, husbands and wives, grandfathers and grandmothers, that is, we are all part of the Lubbock community, all interconnected, and all deserving of living and working in a safe City.”

Kring's complete comments are included below.

Over the past months I have asked myself, “How do you create a negative image about a company?” What method would you use, or how does a company create its own negative image? When I first came on this board, LP&L was operating without much ado, was building reserves, even paying back excess fund when available. And all of this was taking place without a lot of public complaints. This was the period in LP&L’s history where we were following Excel’s rates. When they moved rates, we followed suit.

"But about two years ago things seemed to take a decidedly different path. Board approved rate increases were denied, even though Excel was raising rates on LP&L and it was imperative that we take action. Then a negative image began to emerge as certain things began being said about LP&L. So in my opinion, I think I know how you create a negative image about a municipal operation such as ours.

"One way to create a negative image is to constantly criticize an organization in the news media. In the criticism you leave enough innuendos in your criticism to cast a shadow of doubt on the organization to make the public think something is wrong. If I didn’t have the privilege of serving on this board, and heard all of the innuendos that have been directed toward LP&L, I too might think something was really wrong with the city owned electric utility.

Let me give you some examples of things that have been said about LP&L over the past two years.

"The accounting records at LP&L weren’t accurate. In fact: each year BKD, the auditing firm for the city, has audited LP&L books and each year we have received an “unqualified” or clean audit.

"Our purchasing policy was flawed. BKD came back after the city audit and audited the purchasing policy of LP&L and again, we got an “unqualified” or clean audit. In that audit, BKD made recommendations which any good auditor will do and LP&L quickly implemented those recommendations in order to further strengthen our purchasing procedures.

"LP&L learned of a rumor that the utility was under FBI investigation. As of today, we have yet to hear from any individuals actually associated with the FBI on any such investigation.

The public has been told LP&L has an incompetent board. I personally believe we have a very competent board, with a group of well rounded businessmen and women, from a variety of business experience to draw upon. I would remind you that this is a volunteer board appointed by the city council to set policies that management can use to operate LP&L.

The public has been told the LP&L board and management have not been honest with them. In every board meeting I have attended, nothing but integrity has been used in every decision. I might add that this board that sits here today has implemented the most transparent measures in the history of this utility and continue to work to improve that transparency with every passing meeting.

The statement was made that LP&L had “housekeeping” issues that needed to be addressed. This is yet another example of innuendos that have been used to cast doubt on the organization. However well intended they may be, they sow the seeds of doubt with the public.

These are just a few examples that have gone on for the past two years, always casting doubt on the operations of LP&L. It’s funny to me that you never hear criticism on the fire, police, water or any other department of the city. Just LP&L.

What does this negativity do to the employees of LP&L? I can tell you on a personal level because I speak with these men and women. It negatively affects the morale of the employees throughout the company. They have ears, they read the newspapers, watch news, and they have children that hear about it at school. They all hear how bad the LP&L organization is. It affects them and it affects their families.

Our crews out on jobs after the rate increase, had citizens stop them and angrily question the rate increase. Not just the practical application of the rate increase but the philosophy behind it. These are hard working people who have nothing to do with the policy decisions of this board. They put themselves in harm’s way every day in order to keep the lights on. One of our field employees had his truck shot last week while out trying to do his job. This type of rhetoric has consequences. Our employees represent the best of who we are at LP&L and they deserve to be respected. They do not deserve to be treated in this manner. These are citizens of Lubbock, rate payers, and tax payers of the City. They work hard every day to ensure LP&L operates on a level deserving of the ratepayers.

This negativity has produced a website called “I Hate LP&L. I looked up the formal definition of hate and it says, “to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility towards; detest.” That’s a strong word and I feel the negativity that has been fed to the public helped create this site.
We are not a perfect board comprised of perfect human beings. We will be the first to admit that. And the summer that we just experienced has taught us many things, as it should have. We will always have room to improve as an organization and we will never be completely satisfied. But I feel that the communication lines to our customers have improved and will improve over the coming year. I am encouraged to see that the name of the website I mentioned has been changed to “We Own LP&L”. I think that is a very constructive change because we do all own LP&L and we should all keep working to make it the best that it can be.

I believe it is time for the negative rhetoric to stop. The council attends our meetings, and the Mayor sits on our board. If you have questions about the actions of the EUB board, please ask the questions at the meetings so that staff or board can address your concerns. You might be surprised, we might even agree with you.

Our major goal for this board is to be ready to provide power when our purchase power agreement expires in 2019. We will continue to defend against the types of comments highlighted previously but we must keep our focus on securing reliable and affordable wholesale power for the long term.

These remarks are strictly “my” comments and I am not speaking for the EUB. I feel very strongly these issues need to be addressed. I have heard several times, we all need to get along for the betterment of LP&L, the City of Lubbock and the ratepayers. I agree. So I encourage everyone, let’s do that…let’s quit all this negativity and conduct our business in a manner deserving of the citizens of Lubbock.