Overbilling CL&P owes city over $380,000

BRISTOL, CONNECTICUT - A year after several city officials fiercely criticized Ken Johnson's contract to get the city a hefty refund on streetlight bills, the project is suddenly winning praise at city hall.

Johnson's company recently projected that Connecticut Light & Power owes Bristol slightly more than $380,000 because of years of overbilling.

Johnson, a former CL&P manager, has worked as a contractor for several Connecticut municipalities in recent years to investigate whether the utility overcharged them for streetlights.

The utility has offered refunds to communities after acknowledging inadvertent overbilling, but Johnson and his company, Municipal Energy Consulting Group LLC, maintain that many municipalities would still be shortchanged. Bristol officials were lukewarm when Johnson offered to review its bill and records, but ultimately gave him a $10,000 contract to seek a refund above the roughly $84,000 that CL&P has offered.

That contract became controversial last year when Johnson emerged as a potential Republican challenger to William Stortz, a Republican in his first term as mayor. Stortz publicly complained that Johnson's company wasn't doing research or filing the progress reports it owed the city, and Johnson countered that Stortz's administration was uncooperative and appeared to be deliberately blocking progress.

Stortz and Johnson ended up in a bitter disagreement, with city council Democrats split — some agreed that Municipal Energy wasn't meeting its obligations, while others rapped Stortz for taking a harder line with Johnson than he did with other contractors. Stortz abruptly opted against seeking re-election; the GOP chose Johnson as its candidate, but Democrat Art Ward beat him in November.

In recent months, city staff members have provided Johnson with the old bills and streetlight inventories that he couldn't get last year. After reviewing them, he concluded CL&P billed the city over decades for illuminating dozens of streetlights that didn't exist. He said the utility owes more than four times as much as the settlement it has offered, and city council members from both parties recently agreed they want to pursue the matter fully.

"I intend to demonstrate our findings to the Office of Consumer Counsel and the Attorney General's office as well to seek their support and bolster our claim," Johnson said.


in Year