NEWPORT, Tenn. (WATE) — A father has been questioning Newport Utilities for several months about his family’s above-average bills.

Allen Carder moved back to Newport after serving in the military and he’s been a Newport Utilities customer since about 2014.

“After my last few months of dealing with them and not having a whole lot of help, I’m not too much surprised,” he said. “Our electric bill, which is usually $300 a month, shot up to I think the first month was $700 and then the next month we shot up to a little more than $800. Even after we had shut off everything and trying to watch our electricity we were still standing around $700.”

Carder believes the alleged reckless spending by Newport Utilities caused his family’s bills to be much higher than normal.

“We hadn’t been in this house half a month and still raked up $500 a month in electricity. Sounds like maybe they were charging some of us a little bit extra,” he said.

“The utilities have a finite amount of money,” said Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury Director of Communications John Dunn. “And when they use that money for things that aren’t necessarily needed, it will eventually have an effect on ratepayers.”

The Comptroller’s Office investigation takes us back to 2016 when Newport Utilities began installing a new broadband system. The company accepted a $3.3 million loan from TVA but exceeded that amount by about $4.7 million.

“It’s not really clear what the reasoning was,” Dunn said. “What’s clear is that Newport Utilities spent significantly more money out of their electric division to build out its broadband infrastructure that they were allowed to do. Now Newport Utilities will have to repay its electric division over time to make it whole.”

Investigators also claim former management at Newport Utilities did not document competitive bids, paid more than $900,000 in avoidable settlements and funded thousands of questionable paid time off hours.

“The former general manager authorized over $3,600 in expenses to paint and landscape a privately owned business located next door to the Newport Utilities main office,” Dunn said.

The former manager resigned in 2020 and new leadership is at the helm. According to Dunn, state prosecutors will not file charges against anyone related to the so-called improper spending.