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Colorado Springs Utilities board members debate new numbers

Colorado Springs Utilities board members debate new numbers

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Colorado Springs Utilities board members disagreed on the city-owned utility's spending on Wednesday on its communications department. New numbers show CSU spent $8.3 million over the past five years on outside marketing and public relations firms.

Mayor Steve Bach said CSU has 21 public affairs employees. However, CSU sent KRDO NewsChannel 13 a breakdown of its employees and each employee's salary. CSU said there are eight full-time employees and one part-time employee. The total of employees' salaries for 2012 added up to $720,840. It also said its annual non-labor budget in 2012 was $2,063,452.

CSU board member Tim Leigh said the inconsistency in the numbers speaks to a larger problem. He said it's a reflection of the lack of communication and transparency between the board and the company.

"Maybe the CEO has to report directly to the mayor, which would be a real simple way to get more accountability at the utilities company," said Leigh.

"I emphatically disagree," said CSU board president Scott Hente. He opposed the mayor's suggestion to let the city's communications department run CSU's communications endeavors.

"This is a critical service we provide to the community and it costs money to do that.  When you run a billion dollar plus year utilities, there's lots of information that you have to get out to them and this is required to do that," said Hente.

Hente said CSU's communications department runs consumer education programs and other initiatives that are different from projects the city's department handles. He described the two different communications departments as "apples to oranges."

Hente said all decisions about CSU are handled by the board. The mayor can attend the board's meetings but he does not have voting power.

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