In a letter to Burlington city councilors in advance of tonight's special meeting about the fate of Burlington Telecom, Mayor Bob Kiss said he supports a full, independent audit of the utility's finances, among other steps, to reinstate residents' confidence in the fledgling venture.
The audit request comes on the heels of an extensive war of words between the Kiss administration and David O'Brien, the state's public service commissioner. O'Brien's department represents ratepayers in cases before the Public Service Board, the quasi-judicial body that regulates utilities.
Currently, BT is in violation of two key conditions of its certificate of public good (CPG) issued by the PSB: it hasn't built out its network within the Queen City as fast as it originally claimed and it borrowed a total of $17 million from the city without repaying the money within 60 days.
Kiss said another city entity, Burlington Electric Department, already has audits conducted separately from the citywide financial audits, and a BT audit could likely be completed before the end of the calendar year.
"I agree with suggestions for an independent audit of the current stateof BT finances and operations. My administration will work to ensurethat such an audit is completed in an expedited fashion if we choose topursue a separate audit of BT similar to the process used by [Burlington Electric Department]," writes Kiss in his letter (a full copy is pasted below). "I think a separate audit of just BT can ... help to allay public concerns."
Kiss also said that Chief Administrative Officer Jonathan Leopold, who alone OK'd the city loans to BT without explicit approval from the Board of Finance or the City Council, will recommend several refinancing options to councilors by their Nov. 16 meeting. That financing plan will include an immediate repayment of the $17 million.
The Kiss administration will outline additional steps it believes the council should take to reinforce its support for BT. Two weeks ago, the city council voted 13-1 to seek relief from the repayment condition of its CPG. That vote came after the $17 million in loans was publicly revealed.