Part II - A story of the best and worst of Lake Worth
Date: Wednesday, May 11, 2011 @ 11:43:44 EST
Topic: LW Utilities


Part II & III - A STORY OF THE BEST AND WORST OF LAKE WORTH

Susan Stanton (top) & Utility Director Rebecca Mattey and PowerPlant manager David Mulvay (right) addressing the commission. Susan Stanton, formerly Steven Stanton has always fought the oppression of and discrimination against his/her rights and yet indiscriminately violated Mr Reyes' First Amendment Rights in an ironic and hypocritical twist to our story.

So again we see the video and a good and honest man at the peak of his career and no one predicting that a little over six months later, this man and two other top utility employees would blow the whistle on a long seated tradition of corrupt behavior at Lake Worth utility and would be heard from no more. It would reveal to the public for the first time the mafia style use of intimidation, threats, humiliation, gag orders, and slander to silence the truth and to bully employees into lying to the public.



Mr Reyes was first targeted for doing his job. He was saving the city money on repairs, upgrades, drastically improving electric reliability, identified consultants who were overcharging the city... but because he was identifying the wasteful spending habits of utility management he became an object of concern and when he refused to lie to the public when ordered to do so, his fate was sealed. But let’s zoom into the event that was the tipping point to see how it happened.

BACKGROUND

By early 2009 a few months before the security breach at the Lake Worth power plant, a confluence of interests was already at work trying to get rid of Mr Reyes who was busy saving the city millions of dollars on repairs, identifying wasteful spending, drastically improving the reliability of the electric system, turning the city around from the 26.4 kV upgrade back to the 13.2 kV, and identifying and blacklisting consultants who were overcharging and gouging the city for services and/or providing substandard services and materials.

This did not endear him to the power plant manager or the new utility director who always maintained friendly relations with these firms.

Plant manager David Mulvay had pressed hard to get his good friend Ms Mattey in as utility director. This duo had become best of friends during their years serving on the FMPA board ...FMPA (Florida Municipal Power Agency) is the city’s power provider.

It appears public affection and appreciation for Mr Reyes work presented an obstacle to the duo reestablishing their dominance and control over the utility. And it didn’t help that Mr Reyes was targeting their wasteful spending although he was being discreet about it.

By early 2009, the city manager’s growing disinterest in the city was at a peak as his replacement Susan Stanton was due to take office in April 2009. This lack of interest created a much needed opportunity for the duo to make life miserable for Mr Reyes and finally they managed to force Mr Reyes to resign. But it proved to be a premature move.

Public admiration and support for Mr Reyes was so strong that a deal was made to reinstate him. The new city manager, Susan Stanton agreed that she would reinstate Mr Reyes when she finally took office in April, which infuriated the plant manager and utility director who had worked so hard to get rid of Mr Reyes.

For the plant manager and utility director, Mr Reyes knew too much and was interfering with their plans. They appealed to Susan Stanton, who was about to put Mr Reyes back on the job. Stanton fulfilled her promise and rehired Mr Reyes but then placed him under the utility director’s gag order which included among other things, making it a violation for Mr Reyes to discuss anything relating to the utility with anybody including his wife. His every move was limited.

Now with the full support of the city manager, the Mulvay-Mattey duo were poised to finally get rid of Mr Reyes for good. And what happened next would destroy any remaining credibility Mr Reyes might have with the commission.

The showdown would come in a most unexpected way from a sore that had been festering since late March. It was that easily remedied security breach and it quickly exploded into the chaos referred to in part I of this series. Everything happened so quickly that the public barely grasped that its wonderful new hero was gone for good.

ZOOMING IN ON THE SECURITY BREACH

I have been asked to briefly recount the event for internet and media viewers interested in cyberspace security issues. So let’s focus in on March 2009 as events picked up pace.

Late in March an intruder managed to gain access to the programming section of Lake Worth’s most sensitive power grid computer which was supposed to be secured against such potential misuse. But these security measures had never been taken seriously the excuse being that the computer was located within the power plant. So, with a generic password that everyone knew …anyone could log onto the computer. However, it was made clear that the programming section of the computer required the highest security clearance and that was given to only three individuals.

Late in the month, Mr Reyes was summoned by technician Howard Jordan and shown where someone had re-attached a programming module to the main frame computer without authorization. And within a short time, it happened again and this time sensitive programming data turned up missing from the computer. This constituted a very serious breach of security that could potentially affect the south Florida power grid and according to standard utility practice… an immediate and mandatory investigation was required.

The danger to the public was real. With access to the programming level of the system, system operators could be blinded from knowing what was happening out on the system, allowing a clever saboteur to remotely control the system free from detection. This created the possibility that the Lake Worth power grid could be used in an attempt to affect the whole south Florida grid. So this breach of security represented a significant threat to the public.

Mr Reyes quickly placed a lock on the access door to the computer room until the required investigation could determine who was responsible for the unauthorized intrusion and the data that was missing.

The most likely candidates were employees but why would they risk disciplinary action or termination by tampering with something they knew nothing about and something they were not authorized to touch?

While everyone was waiting for management to move ahead…

plant manager David Mulvay (above) ordered the lock removed and along with utility director Rebecca Mattey, they told Mr Reyes and Mr Drenski (Superintendent of Energy Delivery) that no investigation would take place and that Mr Reyes’ request for the implementation of password protection for the computer… was denied. It sounded as if the duo knew who the intruder was but they wouldn’t reveal if they knew or not.

This was far from a normal utility management response to a security threat of that magnitude and it was obvious to any employee who knew about it. The solution was so simple it would only take minutes to implement. But for the three top utility heads, Mr Reyes, Mr Drenski and technician Howard Jordan with their combined 75 years of experience… the biggest surprise was yet to come.

Much to everyone’s surprise ...rather pursuing the intruder and taking a few simple steps to secure the computer in compliance with sound utility practices… the utility director declared that there had been no breach of security and ordered employees to deny any security breach had occurred.

Immediately employees were asking… ‘how did she determine that?’ The utility director had no electrical background and Mr Mulvay doesn’t even meet the qualifications of his position… so how did they dare make that assertion?

As we have seen over and over again… the odor of a mistake may pale in comparison to the stench of a cover-up and this is a good case in point. If there hadn’t been an attempt to cover up the security breach, the problem would probably have resolved itself quickly and quietly. But when the utility director ordered employees to lie to the public, she just added to the assurance that someone would surely leak the information to the public.

As the paper and email trail multiplied, it drew more and more unwanted attention as word got out there was a security problem at the power plant. In response, the utility director boldly and categorically denied there was ever any security breach. And thus she committed herself, the city, and the new city manager to an all out war to cover up the truth that could have been so easily resolved.

But as you might expect, the truth isn’t always so easily suppressed and this caused city management to attempt to discredit and malign Mr Reyes saying to the media and the public that an investigation had determined there had been no security breach. With a uniformed Sheriff standing next to the city manager, the media never even bothered to ask for the records of that investigation and rushed to print the story. Later when the phony investigation claim was exposed, not a single embarrassed media reporter printed a retraction or correction.

Thus events were set in motion which would destroy the careers of three honest men refusing to lie to the public when ordered to do so by the utility director and city manager.

Why was utility management risking so much in covering up an easily fixed security problem that they should have fixed years ago? What did they think they were protecting with heavy handed mafia tactics like gag orders, intimidation, lying to the media and to the Sheriff? Or, was this a ruse to suck Mr Reyes into a trap and get rid of him?

This is a sketch of what happened but only a trial will expose the depravity and viciousness with which the city, utility and plant managers then proceeded to maliciously attack and intimidate anyone who would dare tell the truth to the public about what happened.


PART III – TRIAL or BUY OUT

After blowing the whistle on Lake Worth management two years ago, the Plaintiffs have motioned for discovery and tried to schedule depositions but the city hasn’t been cooperating. Recently it was reported by the city manager that the cost of the case thus far was under $300 which sums it up. The court record shows on April 28th what appears to be a failed mediation attempt… with no indication of a settlement. The likely explanation is the city probably announced they would make an offer which is another way of stalling and delaying for a few months. Then they make a low ball offer they know won't be accepted but they've gained more time for the public to forget what happened and lose interest so the issue slowly fades into oblivion. But the city is now out of delay options and will have to cooperate and prepare for a trial.

Legal observers agree the city will never risk a trial because the powerful stain on the city from a revelation of the truth would send management heads rolling. The likely scenario they say, is a game of hardball to the finish and just prior to a trial, a deal will be offered conditioned on confidentiality.

Under this scenario, taxpayers will pay out somewhere between 6 – 10 million while being denied knowing the truth about what they are paying for. Of course this scenario best serves the interests of the city and utility managers and would preserve their jobs since the public would never know the truth.

And so it could become the perfect example of why the forces of corruption continue to operate freely in Lake Worth because of the total lack of accountability for wrong doing and thievery. And consider this, even if some heads roll… they just roll right back into the recycle bin of municipal rejects …and then some other unsuspecting city will probably hire them.

As for the report the city manager commissioned? It’s ten pages shows what the city does best… hire a consultant who will give them the results they are paying for. In this case a self proclaimed ‘expert’ rendered opinions on power system technical matters he knew nothing about. The claim to legitimacy was the impressive looking 250 pages he stuffed into the report which were meaningless hard drive index and bitmap printouts from software programs typically available for less than $20.00.

It’s very clear that Mr Reyes was targeted because he was identifying the wasteful spending habits of management... habits which are now back in full force wasting millions. And short term, the city, utility and plant managers have rid themselves of the embarrassment of someone targeting their wasteful spending habits. But why is there so much waste? And is that waste the product of corruption, incompetence, or malfeasance?

The problem is… the public doesn’t know how to identify utility waste because they don’t know where to look. It takes insiders and experts to do that and now you see why Mr Reyes was a one of a kind asset… probably the most valuable asset Lake Worth ever had since you can now see exactly how you can be robbed and not even know it.

But I would add, even when the waste and the people responsible for it have been identified… the dysfunctional and corrupt city power structure operates to cover it up and will stonewall, obstruct and prevent any progress toward holding those responsible to any accountability. So without Mr Reyes who was uniquely qualified to be our guide to a better utility… the destructive forces of waste are boldly at it again.

Recent upgrade estimates are clearly half of what they should be, thus luring the city into a project with promises of undergrounding and Smart systems …that will double in cost and provide a gravy train for contractors and consultants. Sound familiar? It should. It’s exactly how we squandered 6 million dollars on the wrong upgrade 5 years ago.

But that’s not all. Remember the $50,000 ARC FLASH STUDY that Mr Reyes was qualified to do at no cost to the city (see Waste Clock to your left)? As of a month ago, (two years later) this three month study was still not finished and linemen are still not protected. If the utility director can’t manage a simple 3 month $50,000 dollar project, why should she be trusted to manage a 22 million dollar project? How many more times will citizens allow their bond money to be squandered for the benefit of contractors and consultants? And where is a trustworthy servant to guide us?

And what’s going on with unlimited weekend overtime for linemen who sit around most of the day and don’t have enough to do during the week. Perhaps this is how Mr Mulvay encourages loyalty.

It has become clear, the likelihood of Lake Worth finding and keeping an honest employee that will bring the utility around and actually make it a benefit to residents is made impossible without a thorough house cleaning and with the power structure as it is… that will never happen without a strong Mayor.

But there is one small but large consolation for the honest employees mistreated by the city. A day of reckoning is coming and there’s no stopping it now. The only wild card is will these three men accept a deal before trial in return for their eternal silence as to what really happened.

At least we know that fear and intimidation did not claim another victory here.

Part IV is coming up







This article comes from Lake Worth Media
http://www.lakeworthmedia.com

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