WebRTC Solutions Industry News

TMCNet:  Utilities employee blows whistle on communications plan

[November 21, 2012]

Utilities employee blows whistle on communications plan

Nov 21, 2012 (The Gazette (Colorado Springs - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- A Colorado Springs Utilities employee is blowing the whistle on the billion-dollar city enterprise, claiming it initiated a plan to "counter comments and actions" from Mayor Steve Bach, City Council members and the public regarding the future of the downtown power plant and other utility issues, according to a letter obtained by The Gazette.

Utilities denied the allegations. A spokeswoman said the utility simply created a group of existing employees to provide accurate information to ratepayers "so they can make informed decisions on their own behalf." The employee said Utilities' actions could be construed as a waste of ratepayer dollars and even unethical. The employee claims the plan includes hiring outside marketing and public relations firms to avoid disclosure of the utility's activities under the Colorado Open Records Act.

"I feel it's unethical," the employee wrote in an Oct. 14 letter to Utilities' Human Resources Department, which is looking into the allegations.

"I am stating this, as I wish it to be known that should an audit be performed, I can't condone activities related to intentional non-disclosure. I believe as a municipal utility, we must be accountable and transparent to our citizen-owners," the employee wrote.

The Gazette is withholding the name of the employee at the request of a source who fears the employee could face retribution.

The employee's accusations and the utility's efforts to control the message come amid a growing and sometimes contentious community conversation about the governance and management decisions of Utilities. The utility, which has a monopoly in Colorado Springs, has been under increased scrutiny about everything from the level of detail in its annual budget to its decision to bankroll a multimillion-dollar emissions control technology at its downtown Martin Drake Power Plant. The coal-fire power plant, an aging facility that emits clouds of condensation, has become the subject of a decommissioning study, raising questions about whether the utility should continue to invest in sulfur dioxide scrubbers invented by Neumann Systems Group ahead of a 2017 deadline to meet environmental regulations.

The City Council doubles as the Utilities Board and oversees the utility. Critics say council members fail to provide proper oversight.

Bach has called for greater transparency at the utility but has no voting power on the board. He said the allegations made against Utilities by one of its employees are "alarming." "I would hope City Council is looking into it and will get back to us with the facts," Bach said in a statement Tuesday.

Sherri Newell Wilkinson, Springs Utilities' chief public affairs officer, said the employee's claims are false.

"The accusations are simply not true and whoever sent the letter doesn't have the facts," she said.

Newell Wilkinson said she assembled what is being called a Local Affairs Team to provide ratepayers what she calls "accurate information" about three studies initiated by the Utilities Board. They are a study of decommissioning Drake, a study of Utilities' electric generation operations and a study of Utilities' governance.

"It is our responsibility to be the first and best source of Utilities information and to correct any misinformation," she said.

Newell Wilkinson said ratepayers "have asked for additional information on these topics." She said the requests have come through public meetings, Utilities' website and call center and in one-on-one conversations. She couldn't quantify the demand for information.

Utilities spokeswoman Patrice Lehermeier said the Local Affairs Team is comprised of employees who have been asked "to be refocused" because of the additional requests for information around the Drake power plant and other issues in the news.

"But this idea that somehow we're trying to come out against the mayor or come out against anyone who has their own opinions and ideas is just, on its face value, it's incomprehensible," he said. "That's not the intent of anyone in this organization." According to the employee's letter, the team was formed in September. During a staff meeting, the employee raised concerns that using ratepayer dollars "could be construed as unethical or illegal," especially for outside public relations support.

"My comment are based on risk aversion -- as I feel this approach will create undue exposure and risk to reputation, operations and policy management," the letter says.

Utilities said it has used the services of two outside firms on the project so far.

VI Marketing and Branding, which has a Colorado Springs office, and Denver-based Sigler Communications Inc. provided "communication strategy," Lehermeier said.

"This has occurred through conversations and meetings with the Local Affairs Team," she said in an email. "It's constructive for us to have different experience and perspectives at the table. Since September, we have paid the agencies a combined $5,443.75." The employee said paying outside consultants when the utility has "superior talent" within the Public Affairs Division is "a waste of ratepayer money." "If our mission is an obligation to serve, then I believe we should put our best foot forward and tell our story, through our consistent examples of exemplary work that our community appreciates," the employee wrote in the letter.

City Councilman Tim Leigh said Monday in his electronic newsletter that he had heard that Utilities had formed a special working group "to defeat the mayor" and "questions and questioners who voice alternative views to CSU's management." Leigh said Tuesday that ratepayers should be "outraged" that Utilities formed such a group.

"Unless you can have an open and honest and transparent dialogue, you can't reach the best conclusion for the citizens, and that the management would have the hubris to form a special committee to try and defeat that open conversation is absolutely outrageous," he said.

-- Contact Daniel Chacon: 476-1623 Twitter @danieljchacon Facebook Daniel Chacon ___ (c)2012 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Visit The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) at www.gazette.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

[ Back To WebRTC Solutions's Homepage ]

FOLLOW US

Featured Podcasts

Delivering First Class Communications With WebRTC

This webcast captures a recent discussion about WebRTC between Jim Donovan, Director of Product Management at Oracle and Larry Hettick, Editorial Director and Senior Research Fellow at Webtorials. The topics cover WebRTC reliability, interoperability, and security--looking at how Oracle addresses these issues.

Oracle in Enterprise Communications

Most in the industry have heard of the acquisition of Acme Packet by Oracle. What you may not know is that Oracle has a number of telecommunications products including a UC suite, WebRTC Session Controller, and Operations monitoring tools. Oracle is pursuing both the enterprise and service provider.

Featured Whitepapers

ConnectCare & Unified Contact Manager

SPAN's ConnectCare is a WebRTC-based telemedicine app, which allows consumers to easily and instantly avail clinical healthcare from the providers, regardless of their location. This app is extremely useful to healthcare providers, patients and their caregivers alike.

WebRTC Security Concerns

This whitepaper covers two of the most relevant topics in communications industry today: WebRTC and security. We will introduce the problem of security in WebRTC including those traditional VoIP attacks that are going to be present in WebRTC services. Later we will mention ad-hoc WebRTC attacks and protection mechanisms, to close with an overview of identity management solutions.

Migrating Real Time Communications Services to the Web

In the Internet age, businesses that own fixed and mobile communication networks, including traditional Communications Service Providers (CSPs) of all kinds, are being challenged with some tough questions: How do we stay relevant to our customers?

Delivering Enterprise-Class Communications with WebRTC

WebRTC is an emerging industry standard for enabling Web browsers with real-time communications capabilities. It enables enterprises to enhance Web sites, empower BYOD users, and improve video collaboration and on-line meetings, to name but a few examples.

WebRTC Report Extract Reprint

This document examines the growing important of WebRTC, both generally and for telecom service providers. It considers the expanding range of use-cases, the multiple layers of interoperability likely to be desired by telcos, and some implications in terms of network integration and mobility.

WEBRTC SOLUTIONS PAPERS, SLIDES, COLLATERAL

Robust Enterprise Grade WebRTC Systems and Services


The emerging WebRTC standard has become one of the industry's hottest topics – and with good reason. Being able to "communications enable the web" has Communications Service Providers as well as Enterprises busily making plans for deployment. But, as these plans unfold, reality is starting to intrude on those plans. Our expectations of telephony services are much higher than web browsing. We expect the phone to connect instantly, operate with minimal disruption, and work seamless across any network, anywhere, at any time. There is also an understanding that phone service is inherently secure. With WebRTC, the expectation is for these applications to behave in the same manner.

This session looks at the user experience and expectations of a WebRTC Enterprise service. It will also cover how a WebRTC enterprise handles security, reliability, and interoperability within browsers and networks.

ORACLE COMMUNICATIONS WEBRTC SESSION CONTROLLER

The Oracle Communications WebRTC Session Controller enables communications service providers (CSPs) and enterprises to offer WebRTC services – from virtually any device, across virtually any network – with carrier-grade reliability and security.

Sales Presentation: Oracle Communications WebRTC Session Controller

Agenda:
- WebRTC Market and Opportunities
- WebRTC Challenges
- Oracle Communication WebRTC Session   Controller
- Summary

ORACLE COMMUNICATIONS WEBRTC SESSION CONTROLLER SOLUTION

Communication Service Provider (CSP) voice service revenues continue to face pressure due to shifts in communication preferences and competition from non-traditional service providers. Voice communications are now often embedded into applications outside the domain of traditional telephony voice usage. CSPs have been challenged to effectively leverage and monetize new web-oriented communications technologies.