Even The Owners Don’t Know Where The Money Goes
The saga of the Johnson Utilities hearings has now ended week 3 and we have learned a lot of shocking information, but recently it has been the financials that commissioners have found frustrating.
Earlier in the hearings it was pointed out that Johnson Utilities diverts half of its revenue which is nearly 15 million dollars yearly to a subsidiary company named Ultra Management. When George Johnson himself was questioned about this he was unable to say what this company actually did.
Since this company is owned by Chris Johnson (George’s son) it was assumed by most that when he took the stand we would find out what the reasoning behind this was. Well that was not the case.
Chris Johnson took the stand on May 1st and it was more of the same, I am not sure, I can not recall, my lawyer told me to.
Even something as simple as how much money do you make as the owner of Ultra Management he could not answer.
He was not even aware whether it was five or six figures. He didn’t know how much he pays to Hunt Management either, presumably the biggest expense. How does an owner not know how much money he makes or what his bills are?
So why is there an Ultra Management in the first place? Well that seems to be a question that is lost on everyone as well. When asked Johnson’s response was “It was formed on the advice of our attorneys. I’m not sure I can answer you much better than that.”
Administrative Law Judge Sara Harper was less than impressed with his answer saying “It sounds like in regards to the agreements we have had you look at, you don’t really recall how they came about and you have relied on your attorneys to tell you what was good for you to do, it is surprising you would have that level of confidence in your attorneys, yet you don’t recall now. Don’t you think?”
We did get one actual response to a question from Mr. Johnson though! He did know that he makes $120,000 per year from Hunt Management. So we got one real number.
That takes us to Brad Cole’s time on the stand, which at the time of this writing is still going, and has been for almost two days now. This one has been interesting. Mr. Cole as the Plant Manager seems to have very little information about anything that happens at the plant. When asked about a March 19th water outage he was unaware of the issue until the ACC brought it to his attention, he has blamed a farm 6 miles away for hazardous gas issues in the section 11 plant, he does not know how many lift stations the company operates, and does not know about land purchase agreements. When asked whether they give the customers the benefit of the doubt his response was “ Uh…What do you mean?”
Commissioner Andy Tobin much like San Tan Valley residents, is not happy with the lack of transparency that Johnson Utilities is providing, has posted a letter to the online docket expressing his concern with the roadblocks the commission has faced trying to get information from Johnson Utilities.
While The Town of Queen Creek was considering purchasing Johnson Utilities they collected a lot of information about the utility that would be helpful in this case, so Mr. Tobin requested to see those public documents. As the town was gathering and delivering those documents JU sued the town, and filed a restraining order.
Tobin states in his letter “Johnson Utilities has thwarted our efforts for transparency during these hearings, it makes you wonder, what are they trying to hide?”
Mr. Tobin also stated that “there is no end in sight as to when I will finally obtain access to these public records which the town of Queen Creek does not object to producing.”
These issues have plagued San Tan Valley residents for years and it seems like we might be getting close to a resolution, yet one thing stands in the way. The memory of Johnson Utilities.
The age old saying of “there must be something in the water” comes to mind when you think about the memory loss of Johnson Utilities, but then again most of them don’t live here, and don’t have to drink the water, so that can’t be the problem.