North Texas Daily

DME’s investigation of energy center’s contract process concludes

DME’s investigation of energy center’s contract process concludes

August 23
22:10 2017

An investigation into Denton Municipal Electric’s (DME) handling of the contract and bidding process for the Denton Energy Center (DEC) concluded last month and found the conduct of staff created an unfair advantage for certain vendors in the bidding process.

The investigation found certain employees had prior relationships and improper contact with two of the four vendors who bid for the DEC. The investigation concluded there was an early preference for certain vendors before the bidding process was complete.

The documents released detailing the investigation further stated there was no evidence of fraud or criminal activity with either the employees or the vendors. Though, based on the findings the bidding process should have been restarted.

At the beginning of the investigation, four high-level employees were put on administrative leave, including former general manager Phil Williams, who resigned from his post. Two of those four, Mike Grim and Jim Maynard, were ultimately fired for their actions. The last of the four, Bill Bunselmeyer, was cleared of any wrongdoing.

In response, both Maynard and Grim have filed lawsuits with the city, which claims city officials violated the Texas Open Meetings Act and the Texas Whistleblower Act.

The investigation into DME, Denton’s largest department, was launched in response to questions from the public and the City Manager. Questions concerning transparency about the contracts, the costs and the emissions rate were raised after the city approved the energy plant.

The contracts were awarded to Wärtsilä and Burns & McDonnell after the plant was approved in September 2016. The contracts between the two companies and the city are estimated to be worth $100 million each, but the contracts have never been publically disclosed.

The DEC is projected to cost around $227 million. The project is part of DME’s 10-year $1.1 billion upgrade of its substations and transmission systems.

Featured Image: West of the Denton Enterprise Airport, the City of Denton was approved to build a new, gas-fired energy facility. Until recently, this project was under investigation into its contracts between the Denton Municipal Electric company and the firms hired to build. Katie Jenkins

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James Norman

James Norman

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