This is the story that started the retaliation.
Below this is a description of the retaliation in detail.
Keep the HEAT on for the Poor, Elderly and Disabled
The original purpose of deregulation was to increase competition, give consumers a choice, lower costs of products and services and end monopolies. In the cases of big business, it generally worked, but not in the smaller communities and particularly not in Henry County, TN.
Utility monopolies are alive and well in smaller communities. Paris Board of Public Utilities, in Paris, Tennessee is the best example of failure of deregulation and government oversight being absent. This allows a small group of politically motivated people with similar backgrounds and connections to control the consumers they serve, by creating a self-serving policy that is detrimental to the residents, who are forced to obtain electric service from the only provider and pay undefined rates, without the right to question the rates or the service provider without fear of repercussions by the utility company or local government.
To understand how a Public Utility company is able to control the residents they are supposed to serve, you must understand how the Board of Commissioners is chosen and how politics play a role in this system. In the case of Paris Board of Public Utilities (BPU) County Commissioners are appointed by the County Mayor, a former banker. (There is a City Mayor and a County Mayor) Personal friends of the City and County Mayor, along with family connections and old names and old money that never change are in control of the less fortunate, including the low income, sick, disabled and elderly residents who live within the service area and this appointed Board is allowed to control policy, which is dangerous to the residents of Henry County, Tennessee. The City of Paris owns and is the only regulator of BPU. A case of the fox guarding the hen house.
The Board is made up of current and former local politicians, and their families and friends, who are paid by the City of Paris, Tennessee. Paris Board of Public Utilities, state on their website that they are owned by the City of Paris, owned by the people they serve and a non-profit company, all in the same paragraph. Taken directly from Paris Board of Public Utilities website, the following is their business statement:
[The Paris Board of Public Utilities was created in 1938 to serve electricity to all of Henry County and water for the city of Paris. Owned by the city, we are governed by a independent board appointed by the mayor and approved by the full commission. In 1954, sanitation sewer service was offered to the city of Paris.
Owned by the citizens we serve, we offer low, non-profit, rates reflecting our mission of quality customer service. We continue to explore new ideas to improve our performance and add value to our service.] However, the General Manager of BPU claims BPU to be privately owned and will tell you that BPU operates on 15 cents of each dollar.
Appointed Commissioners and especially the County Mayor, sit on many other Boards. The County Mayor also sits on the Board of Northwest Economic Development, which distributes the Low Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds for nine (9) counties. By delaying and under-staffing the LIHEAP application process, the County Mayor is able to allow disconnects of heat and electric by BPU which then requires a reconnect fee ranging from $25-$35, in each instance, which goes directly to BPU. This is clearly a conflict of interest. The winter bills are tripled, so that even if someone is approved for LIHEAP funds meant to assist the low income with increased winter bills, it rarely covers one month of service. The current delay in processing applications means that most will not get assistance until the spring, which effectively becomes a subsidy for the utility company. Our newly elected State Representative, Tim Wirgau, has been made aware of this practice but is himself a former member of the Board of Commissioners and refuses to introduce any legislation changing this policy.
The reconnect fees are not taken from the LIHEAP funds, extra fees come directly from the consumer. For instance, if a consumer is having trouble paying their electric bill and requests an extension, BPU will not comply to the request. They simply disconnect service and the consumer has to pay the reconnect fee separately. Other fees made to punish the poor are excessive late fees. If a consumer goes to the BPU office the day of disconnect and arrives after 8:00 a.m., the consumer is required to pay the bill in full, all late charges, and the reconnect fee as well as another $15 fee for the office to call the worker and stop the disconnect. BPU will not reconnect if this is not paid. This policy punishes the low income, elderly and disabled who are struggling just to pay the actual usage charges. Deposit amounts for the poor are $225 currently. All of these fees can be considered as "ghetto fees". The poor, elderly and disabled are paying much more for the same service offered to the wealthy. Despite this fact, many of the well-to-do consider a budget billing program as an entitlement program and believe the less fortunate are a drain on society and living off of taxpayers. The average income of someone on disability is under $700 a month. People are having to choose between basic needs to survive from month-to-month, sometimes sacrificing needed medicines, treatment and food.
This explains how a utility company such as BPU, who claims to be non-profit, can boast an annual income of $50-$100 million when the population for the entire county is only 32,000 m/l and not all use electric for their heat source. Paris Board of Public Utilities, doing business as the City of Paris, pays the Board of Commissioners a very generous salary of over $100,000 each. Recently, BPU also bought a bucket truck for over $124,000, and gave a severance package to a resigning Board member for $24,923.00, for only 3 months of work, all the while saying they can't afford a budget billing program for the poor, elderly and disabled. Left to govern themselves, BPU is allowed to discriminate against the low income residents of Henry County.
The State of Tennessee , unlike most other states, does not have a Cold Weather Rule, which would stop this practice and enable the low income to pay their bills under a deferred payment plan. Paris Board of Public Utilities refuses to adopt any program which allows the low income residents of Henry County the opportunity to keep the heat on during the winter months. As a result, many people are living without electric and heat during the coldest temperatures seen in Tennessee in decades. The number of people dying from lack of heat is not available as the media covers up these stories by saying someone "died in a fire due to an electric space heater or kerosene heater", but not mentioning if there was electric service at the home. Consumers are forced to put themselves and their families in dangerous situations just to keep warm during the winter weather, by using kerosene heaters in confined spaces, barbecue grills, causing carbon monoxide poisoning, as well as running extension cords and illegal connections, which are fire hazards...all just to survive until spring. Some do not make it. Yet this is not reported. I would like to note that if prosecuted for stealing electric service, the same person would receive heat as a prisoner. We treat our criminals better than we treat the poor, elderly and disabled and even our Veterans.
Utility Companies have lawyers protecting them from prosecution. I believe it is time for the Consumer to have protection against this cruel policy of profits over people. This is America and we should treat our citizens with respect and allow the most vulnerable among us basic services such as electric and heat.
The Cold Weather Rule I am proposing to the State of Tennessee is explained in detail below. Following the Cold Weather Rule, I have also drafted a Utility Customer's Bill of Rights.
I believe both of these should be adopted not only by the State of Tennessee, but by the nation.
KEEP THE 'HEAT' ON CAMPAIGN
What the Cold Weather Rule Means
Prohibits disconnection of heat-related service when the temperature is forecast to drop below 32 degrees.
Allows you to budget your payments over 12 months.
Allows you to extend payment of pre-existing arrears beyond 12 months.
Does not require a deposit if payment agreement is kept.
Requires that you be notified by mail, with one notification attempt in person, before your service is shut off.
Allows you to register with the utility if:
a. sixty-five (65) years of age or older;
b. disabled to the extent that you have filed with the utility a medical form submitted by a medical physician attesting that your household must have natural gas or electric utility service provided in the home to maintain life or health; or
c. if you have obtained a formal award letter issued from the federal government of disability benefits.
Prohibits disconnection of registered low-income elderly or disabled customers who make a minimum payment.
Requires that you be notified of possible financial help in paying your bill.
Allows reconnection of your service for less than the full amount owed.
What Does The Cold Weather Rule Mean To You?
Q. What is the period of time covered by this rule?
A. November 1 through March 31.
Q. What must I do to keep service on if I cannot pay the full bill?
A. You must:
-Contact the utility company.
-State you are unable to pay in full.
-Provide income information either by month or annual income.
-Make a minimum payment.
-Enter into a payment agreement.
Q. Do I have to pay a deposit?
A. No, as long as you keep your payment agreement.
Q. What must I pay if I cannot pay my full bill?
A. First the utility must offer you a 12-month budget plan with an initial payment that cannot exceed twelve percent (12%) of the total amount due under the budget plan.
Q. What if I can't afford the payments under a 12-month budget plan because I already owe a past due balance?
A. If you already have a past due balance, you may arrange to pay it over a period longer than 12 months.
Q. What if I don't need 12 months to pay?
A. You may make arrangements to pay your past due amount, plus your current bills, in less than 12 months.
Q. If I break my Cold Weather Rule payment agreement, can the utility require the full amount I owe?
A. No. If you break your payment agreement, the utility will require an initial payment of up to eighty percent (80%) of your total balance. However, if you are a gas utility customer you may make an initial payment of 50% of your outstanding balance or $500, whichever is less, with the remaining amount deferred to be paid in a Cold Weather Rule payment agreement plan over 12 months.
Q. What if I had a Cold Weather Rule payment agreement before, for example last year, and I didn't keep it?
A. If you did not keep your Cold Weather Rule payment agreement before and were disconnected, you may be required to pay 80% of the total of the past due amount.
Important note: A gas utility will not be required to offer the more lenient payment terms to keep service on or to reconnect a customer under the new provisions of the rule more than once every two years or when a customer has defaulted on a Cold Weather Rule payment plan under this section three or more times. In those situations, customers would be required to pay 80% of the outstanding balance to keep service or to have service restored.
Q. Can the utility shut off my service if the temperature is below 32 degrees?
A. No. The utility cannot shut off your service on a day when the National Weather Service has issued a local forecast between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m., for the following 24 hours, predicting the temperature will drop below 32 degrees.
Questions and Answers Regarding the Cold Weather Rule
Q. Can the utility shut off my service on a Friday or a day before a holiday?
A. It's possible. However, the utility cannot shut off your service on any day when: (1) utility employees will not be available to reconnect your service on the following day or days (weekends) or holidays and (2) the National Weather Service local forecast between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m., predicts the temperature will drop below 32 degrees.
Q. If the utility is unable to disconnect my service on the day it is scheduled because it is too cold, can the utility disconnect my service the day after if the forecast does not predict it will drop below 32 degrees?
A. Yes, it can. The utility is not required to go through the notice process twice if the weather permits and it is within 11 business days after the date stated on the notice. Disconnect notices will state that your service is due to be disconnected on or after a certain date. If the weather does not permit a disconnect on the scheduled date, the utility may reschedule the disconnect. Don't take any chances. Call the utility any time a bill cannot be paid on time and make payment arrangements.
Q. What if my service is already disconnected, is the utility required to reconnect my service if the temperature is forecast to drop below 32 degrees?
A. No. You should contact the company and make payment arrangements under the Cold Weather Rule for service to be reconnected.
Q. What is a registered elderly or disabled customer?
A. A registered elderly or disabled customer means a customer's household where at least one member of the household has filed with the utility a form approved by the utility attesting to the fact that he/she:
is sixty-five (65) years old or older;
is disabled to the extent that he/she has filed with the utility a medical form submitted by a medical physician attesting that such customer's household must have natural gas or electric utility service provided in the home to maintain life or health; or
has a formal award letter issued from the federal government of disability benefits. In order to retain his/her status as a registered elderly or disabled customer, each such customer must renew his/her registration with the utility annually. Such registration should take place by October 1 of each year following his/her initial registration.
Q. Who is considered a low-income registered elderly or disabled customer?
A. Low-income registered elderly or disabled customer means a customer registered under the provision of this Rule whose household income is less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, and who has a signed affidavit attesting to that fact on file with the utility.
The utility may periodically audit the incomes of low-income registered elderly or disabled customers. If, as a result of an audit, a registered low-income elderly or disabled customer is found to have materially mis-represented his/her income at the time the affidavit was signed, that customer's service may be discontinued per the provisions of the Cold Weather Rule.
Q. If I've never had a payment agreement under the Cold Weather Rule or defaulted on a previous cold weather payment agreement, what should I expect my initial payment to be?
A. For a customer who has never had or has not defaulted on a payment plan under the Cold Weather Rule, the initial payment shall be no more than twelve percent (12%) of the twelve (12) month budget bill amount which is designed to cover the total of all pre-existing arrears, current bills and the utility's estimate of the ensuing bills, unless the utility and the customer agree to a different amount.
Q. What type of notice must I be given if a utility is going to shut off my service?
A. The utility must:
-Mail you a notice 10 days before the date it intends to shut off your service.
-Attempt to contact you within 96 hours before the shut off (this may be a second
written notice, a door hanger, or two attempts to contact you by phone).
-Attempt to contact you right before the shut off.
-Leave notice at your home when your service is shut off.
Q. Is the utility required to tell me how to avoid the shut off?
A. Yes. The notices given before shut off must tell you how the payment you must make is calculated and that you may apply for financial assistance from the Family Support Division. The utility must also give you a list of other organizations you may be able to get assistance from in paying your bill if these organizations have told the utility they provide this type of assistance.
Q. I am a registered low-income elderly or low- income disabled customer under a Cold Weather Rule payment plan or agreement and have made my initial payment as required. What is the minimum amount I must pay to keep my services from being disconnected during the cold weather period?
A. You must make consistent payments during the cold weather period that are at a minimum of 50% of:
i. the actual billed usage for the month, or
the leveled or budgeted bill amount agreed to in your cold weather agreement.
The utility may recover unpaid amounts from those winter months by adjusting the customer's Cold Weather Rule payment installments after March 31.
Q. What are the advantages of being a registered elderly or disabled customer?
A. The customer receives additional notifications during the November 1-March 31 Cold Weather Rule period prior to discontinuance of service.
Q. What if I receive energy assistance?
A. If the utility receives notice that you will receive a grant equal to the amount of any payment required, you will not be required to make an additional payment for that same period.
Q. What if I have tampered with my meter or received stolen utility service?
A. The utility is not required to reconnect your service under the Cold Weather Rule if you have received the benefit of stolen electric or gas service. You may also be prosecuted for theft and it can be unsafe to reconnect.
Q. What if I move to another residence within the utility's service area and I have not paid in full the amounts owed per our payment agreement to date? Will the utility change my payment agreement?
A. Whenever a customer with a Cold Weather Rule payment agreement moves to another residence within the utility's service area, the utility shall permit the customer to receive service if the customer pays in full:
the amounts that should have been paid pursuant to the agreement up to the date service is requested;
amounts not included in a payment agreement that have become past due.
The utility cannot make any other change to the terms of service because of the change in the customer's residence, except for an upward or downward adjustment to a payment that's necessary to address any expected changes in usage between the old and new residence.
Utility Customer's Bill of Rights
1. The customer should have the right to utility service if they are a qualified applicant of the service area.
2. The customer should not be asked to pay unreasonably high deposits as a condition of service, nor to make unreasonable payments on past due bills.
3. The customer should have the right to budget billing, or payment plans if they are an electric or gas customer.
4. The customer should be entitled to at least one deferred plan (payments which will be spread out over a one year period) in a single year.
5. The customer should have the right to have any complaint against the utility company handled promptly by that utility.
6. The customer shall have the right to investigate utility complaints and inquiries. Service may not be terminated for non-payment of disputed charges during a utility investigation.
7. If the customer suspects service is not working properly, the customer should have the right to have the meter tested, free of charge, once a year, by the utility. For a $5 fee the meter test will be conducted under the supervision of the staff of the utility company.
8. The customer should have the right to a written notice of termination, ten days prior to the discontinuance of service.
9. Residential service may be disconnected, after proper notice, Monday through Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. A utility may not disconnect residential service on Friday, Saturday, Sunday or on a holiday, on the day before a holiday or if no one will be in the office at the utility company the following day, if a valid medical emergency exists in the customer's household or if the customer or a member of the household is on disability.
10. Winter Termination Program - If the customer is elderly, low-income or disabled, having financial problems paying the utility bill, the customer should be able to request the company enroll said customer in a budget plan in accordance with ability to pay. The customer shall be required to make good faith payments of all reasonable bills for service and in return are assured of the right to have gas and electric utilities service from November 1, to March 31, without fear of termination of such service.
11. If the customer lives in a multi-family dwelling, said customer should have the right to receive posted notice of any impending disconnect. This notice must be posted in a common area and/or sent individually to occupants.
12. The customer should have the right to have a "diversion of service" investigation if the customer suspects that the level of consumption reflected in the utility bill is inexplicably high and be entitled to a refund or credit if a discrepancy is found.
13. Service shall not be disconnected for non-payment of repair charges, merchandise charges, nor shall notice threatening such discontinuance be given.
14. The customer should have the option of having a deposit refund applied to their account as a credit, as a credit on a current bill, or as a credit at termination of service at customer's request or of having the deposit refunded by separate check.
15. The customer should have the right to sell power that the customer generates back to the utility company, at a rate equal to what the utility company pays other power companies for the power they buy.
16. The customer should have the right to know the rate of kilowatts-per-hour and this information should be clearly listed on the bill.
17. The customer should have the right to know the 12-month average of their utility costs clearly printed on the bill.
Retaliation in detail
February 12, 2011
For the last few weeks, I have been fighting for a Cold Weather Rule and Utility Customer's Bill of Rights in Henry County, Tennessee. When I first began this fight, I wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, who censored most everything I had to say about the Paris Board of Public Utilities and the County government. The newspaper published my name and full address and one of the BPU agents showed up at my door just after I started this campaign. I did not answer the door when this man showed up. In fact, I was afraid to open my door. Apparently this program that most other states have is a huge threat to the Board of Public Utilities and they are NOT happy with me. Seems that this may be cutting into someone's pocket.
In the last few weeks, I have made progress at the state level after contacting Governor Bill Haslam, who told me he is forwarding the letter I had sent and the copy of the Cold Weather Rule/Utility Customer's Bill of Rights to his legislative staff for consideration. I immediately let the County Mayor know I was in contact with the Governor and sent him a copy of an email I received. It was also sent to State Rep. Tim Wirgau. BPU has been aware of everything I have been doing up until this arrest they would not even take my calls. After the arrest and the publicity...they could not be nicer.
Subtle threats were made against me in the local paper with name-calling and insults and there is an obvious hatred towards me for starting this campaign by the powers-that-be. The comments were vile and hateful. I felt threatened from the very beginning, but expected only some vandalism or drive-by yelling. Not this.
A Henry County Sheriff's deputy (who I can now identify as Cpl. William B. Mellon III) showed up at 5:45 a.m. on the morning of February 12, 2011, beating on my door. I answered the door, half asleep, (I take Ambien for severe insomnia so I was groggy) and asked what he wanted and the man at the door would not tell me, he just said "Open the door". My screen door was still closed and covered in a sheet of ice and it was dark so I could not see through the door, and the inside door was only open about 4-5 inches. I could not identify him and he could not identify me. I asked the man again, "what do you want?" Again he would not answer me and said to "open the door". It was dark and I did not see if he was a Sheriff's Deputy and he showed no papers or identification and he did NOT mention a warrant. I said "Tell me what you want and I will open the door". He said "Henry County Sheriff's Department, open the door" and I again asked what he wanted. He said "open the door and I will tell you" and when I asked again, he stated that he would "get a search warrant and come back with a S.W.A.T. Team to knock down the door". I asked why he was threatening me and told him to come back when he had the search warrant and that I was not answering the door for anyone before 6 a.m. in the morning without knowing why, and I calmly closed the door, but did not lock it. This same Sheriff's Deputy (Cpl. William B. Mellon) would later say I slammed the door in his face. Calmly closing the door apparently constitutes evading arrest, which is only one of the trumped up charges he would file against me. I did NOT see the other officer who claims he was here and was a witness. And I believe if you check the transcripts and times it will prove that they are not telling the truth. Since he made the threat that he had to go and get a warrant and did not say he had one, I questioned why he was actually here and who he really was so I became concerned for my safety.
The same Sheriff's deputy (Cpl. William B. Mellon) used his radio while standing outside the window of my autistic son's room. My son heard the officer ask if he could "take out the dog too" and if he "could break into the house". About 20 minutes later, another car arrived and a very large officer (who I can now identify as Sgt. David Powell) standing over 6 ft tall, about 300 lbs., (Note: I am a female, 46 years old and only 5 ft tall) and the original officer came in the back door, away from the view of anyone watching from the street, both with guns drawn and pointing them at me and my dog and acting like they were in an episode of COPS. This was the first time I saw Sgt. Powell or spoke to him. He had never bothered to speak with me before coming in.
The first officer (Cpl. William B. Mellon) pointed the gun at me and then at my dog, a border collie/hound mix, who was barking but not acting aggressive towards the officers, then he pointed it at my dog again. I grabbed my dog's collar and was holding him and stepped in front of my dog to keep him from being shot, even though he was not lunging at the officers in any way. In fact, my dog was wagging his tail. The officer (Cpl. William B. Mellon) again threatened to shoot my dog and seemed intent on doing just that. He was very clear that he wanted to shoot something. I asked the officers to leave my house but I did not raise my voice. The two officers were yelling. The first officer (Cpl. William B. Mellon) then said they had a warrant for my arrest. I asked politely if I could see the warrant. The second officer (Sgt. David Powell) said "we have the warrant" in a loud voice as he kept the gun pointed at me and I again asked to see it. The first officer (Cpl. William B. Mellon) said "We do not have to show you the warrant". Still pointing the gun at me and my dog, he told me I had a felony warrant, but again I asked to see it and he refused to show any papers to me. I said, "show me the warrant and I will go with you". The younger, first officer (Cpl. William B. Mellon) got on his radio and said "suspect is resisting arrest", before they ever touched me.
Within seconds, the first officer (Cpl. William B. Mellon) grabbed me and threw me face first onto my kitchen table which was sitting in the LR so I could sweep and mop the kitchen floor. I was still holding the dog's collar and it slid off his head when the officers lifted me 6-8 inches off the floor judging from the bruises on my legs. The dog was scared and moved away. The larger officer (Sgt. David Powell) joined in and both held me down and Sgt. Powell cuffed my right hand. Cpl. Mellon was holding my right arm and he could have cuffed me but did not. He was pushing my arm up behind me and twisting my left wrist, and said "see, she is resisting arrest" My arm would not bend that far back. Cpl. William B. Mellon then cuffed me and tightened the cuffs as tight as they could go, until my hands went numb. My shoulders popped as they handcuffed me in front of my autistic son, who was yelling for them to stop hurting me. My son told the officers that I have severe back problems and they were hurting me. The officers told my son to shut up and continued to hurt me. I was in my pajamas at the time and had no shoes on or coat and it was freezing outside. I begged the officers to let me put on my shoes and get a coat and my medicine. Sgt. Powell said "Let her get her shoes" and even though my medicines were within reach they refused to bring them and then they started dragging me out the front door backwards holding onto the chain on the handcuffs, for the neighbors to see. I begged for them to get my medicines as I take 9 prescriptions for my conditions. Both officers refused.
I was dragged out the door backwards with my hands being pushed up as high as they could go which made it impossible to stand up straight and I was bent over from the pain. I was told to stand up straight as they pushed my arms higher and proceeded to push me into the backseat of the car. I could hear them threatening my son with arrest for yelling at them to stop hurting me. I said, "Leave him alone, he is autistic" and I asked the first officer (Cpl. William B. Mellon) to get my medicines from my son. He leaned in the car and said "shut your fucking pothole".
My landlord is a witness to all that took place in the yard. The first officer (Cpl. William B. Mellon) continued to threaten my son as he stood in the road. My son was still inside the house, leaning out the door. I was taken very swiftly to the jail and I believe we arrived at 7:30 a.m. Sgt. Powell made the statement that I "caused him to have to go out in the cold weather". As the officers were taking me to the desk, I asked for their names and badge numbers. I was told they didn't have any cards and they didn't have to tell me anything and they laughed. (I found out their names on the following Monday) I began getting sick and gagging for lack of my medicine but received no medical attention and was refused when I asked for some water. While I was being booked, I asked again to see the warrant. Again, the officers denied my request and began filling out papers and said I was being arrested on a failure to appear in Kentucky from two years ago. I was asked to sign but without my glasses I could not read the papers or what I was being asked to sign. I was told I should just let them tell me what I was signing. I said "Are you kidding me? Sign something I can't see to read?" The officer then wrote "refused to sign" on the papers as he spoke what he was writing.
During this time, officers made the following comments: "You shouldn't have caused trouble", "You should have taken this up with BPU instead of bringing in outsiders" and "I have to pay my bills, what makes you so special that you should get to have budget billing?". The last comment was a quote from the comments that were published in the newspaper a week earlier. Another officer said that he "Did not work for Paris BPU, he worked for the Sheriff". All but the one officer knew what had been playing out in the newspaper with BPU.
I again asked to see the warrant and this time I was completely ignored. I asked how much bond was and was told $140.00. At this point I said, "This is a hick county and I can't wait to move". I was then charged with threatening to flee. (apparently this was dropped) The bond was set at $2,500 and I got out on $287.00 and oddly enough, that is the exact amount of my electric bill for this coming month. However, it was reported in the paper to be $1,000 bond and that there was a "brief scuffle". (5:45 a.m.-7:30 a.m is how long this lasted) I was also told at this time, the warrant was for theft of services (electric bill) and the date on the warrant was February 13, 2011. The date was February 12, 2011, the day before the date I was told the warrant was for. I pointed this out and the officer said, "I mean 2009". The truth...it was from 2006 and paid.
Despite my back pain, I was forced to carry items, including a torn plastic mattress to the jail area. I was then told I would have to sleep on the floor and to "get comfortable" in a very sarcastic tone and with officers laughing about it as they left. Another BPU comment was made by the officer before he closed the door.
As I was being processed out, one of the officers called about the warrant. I heard him say "that's weird" at least three times while on the phone. When he hung up, he approached me and said that "no one could tell him anything about it". They didn't even know who I was. I still did not see any warrant. In fact, I received no paperwork or anything explaining the charges. I just received a post-it note with a court date and told I would be arrested again when I went to court. Nothing describing the arrest or that I had even been arrested was ever provided. (The post-it note was bogus, I was not on the docket in Calloway County on that date, but I went anyway and was given the proof by the Clerk that I was there) Calloway County was never contacted by Henry County.
My son is traumatized over what they did to me and is scared they will come back. Being autistic he becomes very emotional at big changes in his schedule. Now, he is looking out the window every few minutes thinking the police are coming to kill him and our dog. Sgt. David Powell threatened to call Children and Family Services to take my son. However, they did not know he is 23-years-old.
Sgt. David Powell was rude, hateful and mean and had an attitude and went along with what Cpl. Mellon was doing, but Cpl. William Mellon was violent and seems to have anger issues. He lied about the evading and the resisting and seemed to really enjoy hurting me. And he had every intention of shooting my dog. I even asked him what was wrong with him that he would act that way. These two men...who are much larger and stronger than me, went too far.
These events are on the internet and I have already done a reenactment and interview with a prominent website, last Saturday. The video proves my dog was never a danger to the officers. I also now have a security camera out of fear they will return...especially Mellon. As you can see by the pictures, I have every reason to fear for my safety and the safety of my son and my dog. None of this was necessary in any way. And it seems way too convenient that this would happen two days after I told the County Mayor that I was in touch with Gov. Haslam. I am also in touch with Senator Bob Corker. In fact, every politician in Tennessee that can be reached with this issue has been contacted. It's the local politicians that have a problem with it. And for the record..BPU has been kissing my butt for the last two weeks after I posted this online and in the Paris PI.
The comments that were made by the officers and the excessive force used were not over a missed court date in Kentucky. People don't get bruises and nerve damage when being arrested on a warrant for an electric bill in another state from years ago. This was retaliation. Cpl. William Mellon demonstrated that he is clearly unstable and capable of harming someone. In fact, he seems anxious to do so. If this is how he treats someone over an electric bill, imagine what he will do to someone with a serious charge.
There is no excuse for my ending up with these injuries or for the trauma inflicted on my disabled son when Mellon threatened to shoot our dog and hurt me in front of him. I have suffered physically and emotionally, and my son has suffered irreparable emotional damage at the hands of Cpl. William Mellon and Sgt. David Powell. I told both of the officers that he was autistic yet they kept threatening him and now he is having trouble sleeping and is nervous all the time and is terrified. As for me, my hands and wrists are still causing me a great deal of pain. They have not stopped hurting and seem to be getting worse. I am suffering from pain, burning, numbness, shaking and I am unable to hold things for very long before my hands cramp up or I shake so bad that I have to put the item down. I have pockets of fluid under the skin and my wrists still show where the cuffs were tightened. The numbness is spreading up my arms now and my back and shoulders hurt constantly as well. My thumbs on both hands are numb and my little finger on my left hand is numb.
Clearly this was excessive force!
I share my son's concern. If the police are allowed to break into someone's home without identifying themselves, not show a warrant, point guns at unarmed people and threaten to shoot your pet, without fear of prosecution as retaliation for political actions, then they are capable of anything. This was excessive force for nothing more than a five year old electric bill that had been paid years earlier in another state. They treated me like a murderer. I continue to fear for our safety and am now much more concerned about the seriousness of repercussions by the county for my actions trying to get BPU policy changed. I am waiting for the next shoe to drop and wonder if we will fare as well as we did this time.
By the way...there is no warrant for my arrest in Kentucky.
Next time they may pull the trigger.
On February 15th around 2:30 p.m. after I got out of court, the Water Dept. showed up and turned my water off and locked the meter. I explained that I paid $40 on my water bill in January and that I put it in the drop box just like I have for the last five years without any problems. I was told they never got the payment..it was cash. Oddly enough, the cut off date for water is written on the bill. The cut off date is the 28th of each month only. I realized what was going on right away. A man named Paul Mathenia runs the water department. He is my landlord's brother and they do not get along at all. The interesting part is that Paul Mathenia is also a county commissioner and sits on the Board of Public Utilities. Not only did they turn us off, they turned off the landlord who they admitted paid his bill. After two phone calls with no success, I drove to the water dept. at 3:45 p.m. and straightened out the problem. I was told that the water would be back on in a few minutes. I drove back home and waited. At 5:30 p.m. the water was still not on. I called the answering service because by now the office had closed. The worker on call returned my call and I told him the water was still off. He was not very happy about having to drive all the way out here to see what the problem was but he was upset with the water dept., not me. He drove out in his personal vehicle with his personal tools and was at the meter for a few seconds. He knocked on my door and said someone had removed the lock but had not turned the water back on and he could not understand why they would do that. I told him I knew and tell Paul Mathenia he was not scaring me. Paul Mathenia and our new State Representative, Tim Wirgau, who also sat on the Board of Public Utilities are very good friends and helped each other get elected. I have lived here for five years and I have never had any problem with the water dept. until now. You can decide for yourself if this was part of the retaliation.
UPDATE: Spoke with my landlord who told me that his water was definitely shut off the same day mine was even though he too paid his bill. Only his payment was by check so it did not get lost like my cash. He said that they turned him off because "it didn't look like anyone was living there". My landlord works days, but his house does not look abandoned in any way and even if it had been, if the bill was paid, why shut it off? Paul Mathenia, my landlord's brother knew full well that Buddy was still living there...this was just mean and spiteful.
BPU might be breaking State Law
On January 19th, 2011, I contacted BPU about this law and they said there was NO state law of any kind. I said, yes there is, but you aren't following it. The woman I spoke with said there is no such law. Looks like I was right.
NOTE: These policies may not apply to all utilities in this state. In general, municipal utilities and rural electric cooperatives are not regulated and the policies do not apply to them. Check with your PUC/PSC contacts and/ or websites below to see if the state policy applies to your utility and read the Consumer FAQs or Bill of Rights for more information. If you have a dispute with your utility, you should try and resolve it with the utility first before calling your PUC/PSC.
Seasonal Policy: 30 day disconnect delay if physician, public health official or social service official certifies
that a household member's health would be adversely affected. Certificates may be renewed 3 times.
Deferred Payments: Utilities are required to offer a payment plan.
PUC/PSC Contacts Consumer line: 800-342-8359 or 615-741-2904 x 192
Consumer FAQ/ Bill of Rights: www.state.tn.us/tra/consumerfiles/CSDhowtofileacomplaint.html
Complaint form: www.state.tn.us/tra/complnt.html
I just called the Tennessee Regulatory Authority. Apparently the (TRA) have no jurisdiction in Henry County and here is the kicker..the only people responsible for regulating BPU is the City of Paris. Fox guarding the hen house. BPU is regulated by the same people who own it. Nice scam!
February 22, 2011
Quiet today, no visitors, no calls. just some very angry and hateful people making comments in the Paris PI. I am very suspicious about the reason people are getting so upset over a Cold Weather Rule. Not just upset..really angry and it comes with an obvious hate of the poor, elderly, sick, disabled and even veterans. If you are having financial trouble...Henry Countians will NOT help you. The comments are just vile and mean. It is disturbing that these kind of people still exist. What can you expect from those that worship Sarah Palin and who think she is a genius? If someone had told me before I moved here that the South was this bitter, angry and uneducated, I would have said surely not..this is 2011, nobody thinks that way anymore. I would have not only been wrong...but incredibly wrong. The people commenting actually loathe the less-fortunate with such a passion it is truly scary.
Security camera is awesome..absolutely love it and so grateful to have it, thanks B. I highly recommend these security cameras and the price for this quality is great. My son and I feel much safer now.
February 23, 2011 UPDATE:
I applied for LIHEAP on 11-24-2010 and I called about the status yesterday and was told that it was not likely the application had been processed yet. I was told to apply for emergency assistance, which I did this morning. This will cancel out the LIHEAP, but takes only 3-4 days to process. Today was shut-off day and I was expecting to go without electric until Monday. BPU did not show up to turn me off. Instead, a very nice man, employee of BPU came by and gave me a note saying to call in the morning about payment arrangements. This is not BPU normal policy so I am hoping they have changed their minds. A good sign! I hope this extends to everyone and not just me. Kudos to BPU for taking this step.
February 24, 2011
I have had an interesting last two days. On Wednesday, February 23, our electric was supposed to be cut off. I made an $80 payment on it, but as we know, BPU doesn't take payments. I had applied for emergency assistance but it is not going to come through until Monday, so I figured we could survive until then. Not freezing, just lots of storms tonight.
So, I waited and waited on Wednesday. They never showed up. Then at 4 p.m., a BPU truck pulls up and the guy comes to the door and knocks. I opened and said..."yes I know, you are here to turn us off". He said, "No, I was just asked to bring you this note". At this point I am confused. I stepped out and read the note. It read "call the office at 8 a.m. on 2-24-11 to make payment arrangements."
Now I am really suspicious, but I called and the first conversation started off like every other one before. "We need money in 30 minutes or we are shutting you off." I told her, that is not happening..don't have it but that I had applied for emergency assistance and they would have the voucher by tomorrow. I offered to call the main office in Dresden and have them contact her about the assistance, but it turned out that the Director didn't go to work again today, so I was stuck. I called her back and told her I talked to the next in line at the office and that they would get their mail at noon and my application should be there and processed immediately. BPU said.."okay, just call me back after lunch and tell me what they say".
So I called her back again. Told her that they did in fact get my application and would send the approval out today. She said "I can hold the account if you can come up with $62.95. I told her again..no can do until Tuesday. She gets quiet and says, "Okay, we will leave on the electric until tomorrow and if I don't get the voucher we will have to shut it off". I was polite, said "thank you and I understood, but that I was happy they were trying to work with me."
So, I called her again, to let her know that Alexa at the Dresden office would be processing the application. This time she says, "well, I am going to hold the account until Monday on the $80 payment you made on the account". By now, I am in shock. At the end of this conversation, she says, "You have until Tuesday morning". That is the day our next check comes in, but it is not necessary to wait when they are getting the money before that, but I wasn't going to complain either.
So, I am wondering at this point, if they changed policy or were just trying to kiss my butt. I had my friend, Michael, call and ask that if the government shuts down next month, whether BPU would work out payment plans with people who had lost their incomes. He was told "No, they have no intentions of taking payment arrangements for any reason."
They sure are bending over backwards to make me happy for some reason. They even said they trusted that I was telling them the truth. Started out telling me how it works, then broke down and let me tell them how it works...lol. I would be very happy about this situation if it applied to everyone and not just me. It does make me curious as to why they are trying so hard to accommodate me? There must be some major corruption going on for them to be nice to me. The woman I talked to today (Janine) is the same one that told me last month "You don't pay the bill, we will cut you off...period". Yet today she says, "I don't want to send someone out in the rain to shut you off and have to send him back out in this mess to turn you back on". These are the same people who cut off our electric during the last arctic blast..didn't seem to bother them then. Five years living here and they have NEVER, and I mean NEVER worked with me and now this.....hmmmm? Not that I am not extremely grateful for this new approach, but why can't this be policy at BPU? Treating people with respect and dignity and not talking down to customers is great policy. It makes things so much easier on everyone involved. Who can argue that a little compassion and understanding can go a long way?
I am actually getting some of the haters on my side now in the paper. They still don't like me, but I am "not asking for anything unreasonable", is what the last one said. They are starting to creep me out now.
February 25, 2011 (10:20 a.m.)
I just spoke with Alexa at NWED emergency assistance who told me that I was approved for $350 assistance and that she had already spoken with Janine at BPU and had faxed over the voucher this morning. That will cover both the past due and some of next months bill, which is incredibly helpful. Thanks Alexa for the extra effort. So, my electric is good now for the next two months...a huge relief. I do not see why BPU can't adopt this policy for all customers, it took a little effort and a few minutes of time and made a huge difference. Imagine how many differences BPU can make in people's lives just by being flexible. It may not sound like much, but it means everything to the customer having a hard time.
February 28, 2011
I took it upon myself to drive to Kentucky and find out what was really going on since I have never see any warrant. I could not get any information so I sat in the courtroom until my son and I were the last ones in the room other than the Judge and court personnel. The Judge asked what I was there for and I had to tell him that I was arrested in Tennessee on a fugitive from justice warrant based on a warrant out of Kentucky that I have never seen. He had no information as to why I would be out if the bond wasn't paid. The bond in question, covered the bill back in 2006 and was paid with an attorney's check, whose name is Ricky Lamkin, so I asked him for proof that I had been in the courtroom all morning for the purpose of proving to Henry County that I had no warrant. I waited at the Circuit Clerk's office for over 30 minutes and was finally called to the window. The clerk asked ME if I had a copy of the warrant. I said "NO, do you? I also told her I had never seen a warrant and I was informed that I was not on any court docket which was obviously strange because it was a date given to me by Henry County on a post-it note and it was not a valid court date. There was no docket with my name on it for any court, She said I wasn't suppose to be there. She then asked when I had been served, and who served me. I told her I was never served any papers, but that Henry County Deputies arrested me and I was not allowed to see the warrant despite asking them. Shouldn't they have been giving me information and not the other way around? The Clerk could not provide me a copy of the warrant either.
Isn't this information they would have if they had a warrant? Isn't Henry County required to notify Kentucky that I was arrested? So here is my conclusion...there is no warrant because it was recalled when the bill was paid..years ago... and Henry County dug it up just to ruin my credibility. No one can produce this warrant and no one can give me answers but the fact is that Henry County Sheriff's Deputies came into my house with guns drawn, traumatizing my son, leaving me with bruises and nerve damage in my hands and threatened to kill my dog and never produced the warrant I repeatedly asked them to show to me. I might also mention that the dates do not coincide. They picked me up on February 12th, but Henry County said the warrant was issued on February 13th. None of this adds up except to say that Henry County invented a reason to come after me. The fugitive from justice warrant they issued in Tennessee was supposedly based on something from Calloway County that was at least 3 to 5 years old and recalled.
Tennessee has no case! But I do!!!!
There is no warrant so they have to drop that fugitive from justice charge, which also means the other two charges will be dropped because they had no right to be in my house in the first place.
Then the real fun begins, because I am going to sue Henry County Sheriff's Department for Civil Rights violations and emotional and physical trauma and defamation of character.
March 1, 2011
I was contacted by the Calloway County Clerk today, by email. They have no record of any contact with Henry County over this matter. The post-it note I received from Henry County with the court date in Kentucky was bogus. I was not on the docket. Which means that Henry County never contacted Calloway County the day I was arrested, which would have been normal procedure if the reason they say they arrested me was true. So I emailed the Clerk in Calloway County all of the information that Henry County failed to provide in the last 18 days. No answer as of yet.
March 2, 2011
Received email from Kentucky. There is no warrant. I have sent a request for proof and am waiting on it now. Also emailed the Sheriff in Henry County asking for transcripts from February 12th and any former complaints against the two officers involved. Now working on the Civil aspect of this case. Without a warrant in Kentucky, the papers served in Tennessee are no good. The criminal case will not hold up. However, the Civil case is just getting started. The local newspaper is not publishing any of my letters now and have archived all comments behind a pay wall which were in my defense.
Reply from Sheriff
Monte Belew to me
show details 9:19 PM (4 hours ago)
You can send me the information by e-mail that will be fine. I would like you to call me sometime and talk to me ref the situation. I am the one that would be looking into the situation. My cell number is 731-336-4699 if i don't answer please leave me a message. I am currentley attending the FBI NA Academy but i will be done in approx two weeks. Thank you !!!
March 2, 2011
Monte Belew to me
show details 9:41 PM (12 hours ago)
Hope you got my message !! just e-mail me back or call me sometime @ 731-336-4699. THANKS
March 14, 2011
This morning, I went to Calloway County Courthouse in Kentucky. I spoke with two attorneys. The attorney that represented me all those years ago and the prosecuting attorney. The prosecuting attorney had no idea what was going on in this matter and the other said she would have to go through the records in the attic to find the paperwork. I was told to call back in a couple of weeks. This matter was so pressing that Henry County had to come to my house with guns drawn? It seems that this was not even in the computers, but Henry County dug it up...and proceeded to use it against me. They escalated it to make it sound like I was violent and then pulled their guns on me, my son and my dog. Oddly enough, my dog disappeared for 12 hours two weeks ago. He found his way home in a thunderstorm and across the lake. My dog has never run away..so I am suspicious. Seems very convenient that he would disappear before going to court in Henry County.
March 22, 2011
Called BPU this morning to see if they will make payment arrangements on the last $92.00 of my utility bill. Got voicemail, so I am waiting for a call back. Will blog what I find out. Also waiting on results of blood tests done last Friday to see if I have Lyme Disease. I got tick bit when I was searching for my dog two weeks ago.
March 23, 2011
BPU turned off the electric, but we survived until the 1st. Paid it and it is back on. They charged me $35 reconnect fee for flipping a switch at the office.
Went to court in Henry County today and spoke with an Assistant DA. Apparently they have no idea that there is no warrant to base the case on and tried intimidating me, then continued the case. He did insinuate that the case would be dropped if KY was taken care of...only there is nothing to take care of..and he did not believe that there is no warrant.
Judge Vickie Snyder said that if someone can bond out of jail..they can afford an attorney and she will not waste taxpayer money on appointing a public defender. Clearly a violation of rights.
April 6, 2011
Calloway County sent a fax to the Tennessee DA saying that there is no warrant for my arrest to base the case on. They have not called me back and they probably won't
April 14, 2011
I was contacted by an attorney in Kentucky who found the proof that I had paid the bill in 2008. She emailed it to me. I was arrested in Tennessee on February 12, 2011, received bruises and nerve damage among other things over a case that was resolved in 2008. I also have proof that there is no warrant in Kentucky..therefore no warrant in Tennessee can be enforced on that basis.