The Tennessee Valley Authority came to its senses and agreed recently to release executive salary information, but it took a public trip to the woodshed courtesy of two Tennessee congressmen to do it.
The News Sentinel
recently requested salary information on TVA employees making more than $180,000. We planned to include the information in The Book of Lists, an annual magazine that provides information about our community on a wide range of topics. TVA has provided salary information for the magazine in the past.
TVA refused to provide salary information this year, however, so we submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for it. The federal utility refused to comply, citing privacy concerns and a worry that publishing the salaries would put TVA at a competitive disadvantage in the labor market.
U.S. Reps. John J. Duncan Jr. and Zach Wamp, both Republicans, chided the utility for a lack of transparency and said executive salary information should be provided to the public.
The article containing their comments was published in the News Sentinel.
TVA backed down that afternoon. David Mould, TVA’s senior vice president for communications, informed the News Sentinel
he would deliver the information the next day.
But Mould also made it clear that TVA considers its initial secrecy to be justified, saying the FOIA is open to interpretation and that a good business argument could be made for not releasing the information.
Therein lies the problem. TVA is not a private business. It is a federal corporation owned lock, stock and nuclear plant by the American people. For the utility to conceal how it’s spending your money — yes, every cent TVA receives in revenues becomes a public penny — is an affront to all. …
In the wake of the 2008 Kingston coal ash spill, TVA’s inspector general, the agency’s independent watchdog, cited the utility’s culture as a contributing factor to the catastrophe. TVA CEO Tom Kilgore promised he would change that culture, but the utility’s reflexive secrecy indicates he’s made little headway. …
— The Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel