TVA board backs CEO under Trump’s fire for pay


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — The board of a federal utility is criticizing “ill-informed opinions” about how much their organization’s top executive gets paid after President Donald Trump blasted the salary level as “ridiculous.”

According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tennessee Valley Authority board chairman Skip Thompson sent a memo to the utility’s more than 10,000 employees and contractors Thursday defending the board’s decision to pay CEO Jeff Lyash an $8.1 million compensation package. Trump appoints the TVA board.

He suggested he could reduce the CEO’s salary in a coronavirus-related infrastructure bill. TVA does not receive federal taxpayer funding and serves 10 million ratepayers in seven southeastern states.

Here is the text of the memo:

We have never been more proud of TVA employees. During this world-wide emergency, you have shown your dedication to the Tennessee Valley, kept the power flowing to vital services and millions of families, and stepped up both at work and at home to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

You’ve also helped position TVA to support our partners, allowing our organization to offer $1 billion in financial credits to our Local Power Companies who might have a need. You’ve demonstrated once again the strength of our Tennessee Valley Public Power Model.

There are so many stories of TVA employees going above and beyond: helping neighbors, donating to those in need and being there for each other. Thank you.

Yesterday, people who are not as aware of your efforts chose this time to question TVA — specifically the salary of our President and CEO Jeff Lyash. The question was raised by a New York Post reporter at a White House news conference. Questions about TVA’s executive compensation, our role in the federal government, and how we serve this country and region are not new. They stretch back to 1933 when this agency was formed.

We are fully supportive of Jeff and of the entire TVA team. For nearly 87 years, TVA employees have been focused on their unique mission of service to the Valley. It’s unfortunate that ill-informed opinions are now distracting us from our focus on providing reliable power and other vital services during this challenging time.

The TVA Board takes its oversight of TVA operations very seriously, including our role in determining appropriate compensation. Our CEO compensation is based on comparisons with the utility industry and is evaluated by independent auditors. That total compensation ranks in the lower 25 percent of utility peers. In addition, TVA receives no federal funding, yet performs many of the same functions that require taxpayer dollars in other parts of the country.

The reality is this is a time to put aside arguments and do what we do best – deliver our mission of service. When these questions arise, you’ve always answered them the same way — by serving others, delivering value and lifting the Valley out of its toughest times – regardless of position, title or role. You’ve answered with our legacy, with your dedication and with the value delivered each day for more than eight decades.

On behalf of the TVA Board, thank you for your dedication and commitment to the 10 million people in the Tennessee Valley.

Skip Thompson
Chair, TVA Board of Directors

This photo provided by the Tennessee Valley Authority shows CEO Jeff Lyash. On Wednesday, April 8, 2020, President Donald Trump took a swipe at Lyash’s compensation, suggesting the executive’s pay was too high. (Courtesy of Tennessee Valley Authority via AP)


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