The Memphis City Council wants an independent energy consultant to read and review the private sector energy deals which have been submitted to Memphis, Light, Gas and Water.
It remains to be seen whether MLGW cooperates with the city council and allows a private consultant to review proposals submitted by the private sector. At least 27 companies have bid on Memphis’ electricity supply. Currently, Memphis and Shelby County belong to the Tennessee Valley Authoritywhich provides all the electricity in the region.
The council voted 11 to 1 on Tuesday to have Allan Wade, the council lawyer, find and hire a consultant. Councilor Patrice Robinson was the only dissenting vote.
The relative unanimity came after weeks of skepticism from some members of the body about why the city council needed its own consultant, a mistrust that appeared to dissipate on Tuesday.
Councilor Cheyenne Johnson, who sponsored the resolution, said the consultant would not make any recommendations or decisions on which deals to choose and would remain independent.
Councilman JB Smiley Jr., who like Johnson has called for transparency in the bidding process — known as the request for proposals — noted that the Memphis City Council had just named two new members of the board of directors and reappointed three others.
When the council approved those appointments, he said they had agreed to let the city council look over their shoulder and he said his statements on Tuesday should remind them of that promise.
Smiley also said it’s important for any consultant to remain “independent of any lobbyists who have vested interests going one way or the other.”
Worth Morgan, a councilor who had at times seemed skeptical of the need for a council consultant, backed the measure but, like Smiley, said the consultant should have “complete independence from anyone participating in the process” and “ensure we receive neutral and impartial advice.
Councilor Chase Carlisle said, “It’s important that we have someone we can count on.
Patrice Robinson, a councilor who is a former MLGW employee, was the only person to vote against the proposal.
“I think it’s a waste of taxpayers’ money. MLGW has one. The mayor has one. It doesn’t make sense for us to have one to give us the same information,” said Robinson.
Samuel Hardiman covers Memphis city government and politics for The Commercial Appeal. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or followed on Twitter at @samhardiman.