Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Who Ordered the Code E? Part Deux

Consultant said Ecode used for fraud in 2015. 

U.S. District Judge Wingate caught the courtroom by surprise when he outed the "Ecode" program at a hearing on Jackson's water system Friday.  He was not merely ruminating in the penumbras as he said Jackson had a history of giving free water service to friends and family of the favored few.  A 2015 Raftelis report described the program in some detail.  

Jackson Water Manager Ted Henifin was providing an update on the Jackson water system to the Court when Judge Wingate suddenly asked him about the "Ecode" program.  A puzzled Receiver said he did not know what the Judge meant.  Judge Wingate proceeded to enlighten him on one particular aspect of Jackson corruption as a gaggle of lawyers and bureaucrats zoomed in from Washington.  JJ reported Friday: 

Judge Wingate asked Mr. Henifin: Have you determined who has the authority to place residential and commercial customers on Eplan? 

Seeing the Receiver's puzzled look, the learned jurist continued as he said he literally bumped into it.  He said it was created to help customers.  If the city is responsible for the "non-delivery of water, something is wrong with city pipes, for example,", the customer is not required to make payments until the city corrects the problems.  Judge Wingate said the program had a great beginning as such customers should not pay when the city is clearly at fault but then later on, more entities and homeowners were placed on Eplan over the years, which means regular bills were not submitted to such customers.  "In fact, over the years, Planners were not required to make any  water payments for years," said the judge.  Such favoritism continued so long, Judge Wingate said, "some people in fact, considered this forbearance on having to pay water bills was a right they had."  They had been off the water billing system for so long, they did not think they were required to pay any water bills. The Plan extended to certain homeowners and businesses and much revenue was lost, said Judge Wingate. 

However, Judge Wingate was not through explaining this sordid bit of history to the Receiver.  The judge said he asked "persons connected" to the Jackson water department how he could find out who was on Eplan so one could investigate whether they were legitimately on the Eplan.  Staff told him there was no computer model that identified the Planners so people just stayed on it. 

Judge Wingate concluded "So, I asked from time to time.  I didn't have a lawsuit to work with at the time.  I was given various reasons why Ecode was used.  It was abused because "other considerations were involved, it lasted quite a while, for years.  I want to know why the city couldn't hit a button and see who was on Eplan. 

Mr. Henifin said such a program might explain why 6,500 improved properties in Jackson do not have water accounts.  A dumbfounded Receiver said this was the first time he heard of the program but promised to investigate. 

As federal court veterans can attest, Judge Wingate had done his homework.   While the esteemed Jurist gave anecdotal information, a 2015 Raftelis report completely supports Judge Wingate's claims.  The Jackson City Council hired Raftelis Consultants to review Jackson's water and sewer billing systems.  Raftelis produced a report in 2015.  Raftelis discovered the Ecodes and said (p.32): 

Accounts flagged with the government or extension (“G” or “E”) code on their meter to prevent shutoff were also of particular interest as they make up 2-3% of accounts, but account for 17% of outstanding balances as of the end of available data.

Exempt Extension Accounts

An account code of “E” is intended for those customers for whom the City cannot turn off water service. They represent hospitals, sick or elderly residents, those customers on payment plans, and other subsets of the population for which it may be irresponsible to shut off water service.

During the field audit, the team reviewed 37 accounts and found various discrepancies. While it appears this status was originally setup for accounts classified as emergency facilities, due to system limitations it is now being used primarily for payment plan to exempt accounts from shut off and for customers in poor health.

Utility documentation suggests that this code should only be entered by a supervisor, however, no official policy nor appropriate authorization procedures for classifying customers as “E” or setting up a payment plan was provided. The “E” coding screen has no control; any user can go into the system and add an “E” code without approval. Generally, the controls guiding the processing of these transactions are very weak; it is not clear how customers with health issues are identified, classified and authorized. This categorization represents a clear opportunity for customers to essentially sign up for exempt status.

Over 60 percent of customer account sample reviewed were not complying with current payment plan and no action has been taken to escalate or take them off this “E” status.

In recent months, Information Systems staff has begun generating a monthly report of “E” customers on payment plans (information about which is included in a comments field) for review by Customer Service management. This is intended to ensure that payment plans are being honored and to allow for enforcement action where this isn’t the case. However, given the slow turn-off process, this is likely not to result in significant improvements in collection.

The report said (p.34) there were 1.140 "E Code" accounts with an outstanding balance of $1.6 million.  Raftelis warned (p.35) the "E Code" could be used for fraud: 

  • Misapplied exemption flag: Another flag in the legacy billing system that prevents enforcement action is the G/E flag. Customers considered to have “G” (government) or “E” (emergency) accounts cannot be shut off for nonpayment. Despite the intent, this code could be used to prevent shut off for accounts that do not qualify for “G” or “E” status. There is no audit history on this code included in the daily files.
  • Falsified “E” status: Accounts can be switched from Active statuses (coded 1, 3, or 9) to an “Extension Customer” status of E, which extends the date by which a payment is due and keeps nonpayment from triggering shutoff procedures.
The report says such fraud indeed took place: 

However, the project team found evidence suggesting fraudulent activity in the use of “E” status codes. The team reviewed transactions where an account was coded “E” and compared the application user making the change with the benefiting accountholder. Details of this review have been submitted to the Director of Public Works for further review.

 WLBT reported last night "One former public works employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity said e-accounts at one point numbered in the thousands."  Mayor Harvey Johnson said he knew nothing, NOTHING, about the Ecodes: 

Former Mayor Harvey Johnson, who served three terms, says he wasn’t aware of e-accounts. He says a similar program that gave exemptions to elderly and impoverished residents was ruled unconstitutional shortly after taking office.

“So that [ruling] nixed that. That had been in place before I got in office,” he said. “I have never heard of e-codes. That never crossed my desk and I never thought about it.” WLBT story.

Kingfish note: The report provided more documentation on problems with Ecode customers. 

Well, Mayor Yarber was only in office for a year when this report was issued.  Mayor Lumumba the Elder was only in office for 8 months so it's doubtful his cronies created this problem all by themselves.  No, the more likely explanation is this took place during the administrations of Frank and Harvey.  

The Raftelis report is posted below.  


Anonymous said...

This is the tip of the iceberg for Jackson corruption.

Anonymous said...

Will the people who are constantly screaming about racism and how racist the State government has been in its treatment of Jackson acknowledge the corruption within the city itself that has been a much larger contributor to its current plight? I wouldn't hold my breath. Much easier to play the race card.

Anonymous said...

Does the State Auditor have jurisdiction over this corruption?

Kingfish said...

Not really. His power is limited over municipalities. The legislature and the MML like it that way.

Anonymous said...

I fear 9:47 is VERY correct. However, in some twisted minds, corruption is justified for the "disadvantaged and downtrodden" who by their own definition, are victims of systemic racism. Any excuse is justified as long a race IS the criterion......

Anonymous said...

9:52 - would that apply to the Ex-Gubnah, et al. and the State's current plight?

Anonymous said...

This 2015 study says that in 2015 there were 1140 E-coded accounts. Now Judge Wingate says there are over 6500 E-coded accounts. So in the past 7 years since this study, another 5360 people/businesses have been added.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Ask fired/rehired former City councilman Louis Armstrong.

Anonymous said...

@10:18 AM - Mississippi Municipal League - The palace guard for corrupt municipalities.

Anonymous said...

Now that Judge Wingate has let the cat out of the bag he's provided the Lumumba cabal time to cover their tracks.

Anonymous said...

Ted Henifin has stated in part that one objective of his equity billing plan is to provide some operational cash flow breathing room for the water system. Wingate just found him an already existing source of monies if he would just get off his ass and work the billing system debacle.

Anonymous said...

I presume this is in addition to those folks who are on a direct hookup of water, because they paid a water system worker $25 or so to give them a direct connection that the city doesn't even know about. I didn't realize there was an actual computer code. But, that makes sense. City council members have long been able to call the water department and get favored constituents free water-- under the guise of financial hardships, health issues, and the like. Many of them just don't want to pay their water bill and have used the system to get free water. Running a water department is fairly simple. You read meters, send people bills, and you either get their payment or pull their meter. The new conservator seems to be looking for new solutions. There needn't be any new solutions. The old way works great.

Anonymous said...

Codes for no water shutoff are generally limited to hospitals, nursing homes, people that have medical equipment at home that requires water, etc.

But that doesn't mean they can avoid paying a bill. It means that you give them additional notice that isn't given to the normal customer. So on "cut-off day" when you are shutting off water to 500 delinquent accounts (all have been notified of delinquency and impending disconnection of service), you might visit that customer with medical equipment and tell them they need to make arrangements to go stay with a relative because you will be disconnecting the water soon. If it's a nursing home, you talk to corporate and tell them due to nonpayment that water needs to be disconnected and find out how they will handle moving patients and how long it will take to do so. Of course, they then go ahead and pay so that you don't have to disconnect.

Anonymous said...


Now the Barksdalers are going emerge from their Ridgeland-based HQ to have a "town hall" about Jackson ... within the protected confines of the existing CCID!


Anonymous said...

Oh SHAAAAAAAD!!! Found something for you!

Anonymous said...

"Not really. His power is limited over municipalities. The legislature and the MML like it that way."

Take a wild stab at how many additional state employees would be required to audit municipalities. 82 county audits are stressing the system enough. Imagine 500 municipalities.

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, CCJ is getting the legislature to approve them getting off of the city's water and letting homeowners tap to their well. F'off Teddy and Chuck, the folks actually paying their bills are giving you the finger, and more will follow. Hide and watch. Trying to stick the actual rate payers with the higer bills(by home value per Ted), they have the means to have their own water creating more of a billing deficit for the city.

Anonymous said...

I was told about this non-billing back in 2017 by a former Jackson Water Dept. employee who now works for another city in the area. The mayor introduced me to this former Jackson employee and told her to tell me the water billing story. So anyone who complained was deleted from the billing rolls. I personal know an attorney that lives in Jackson and was not getting a bill. Went to the water Dept and demanded one. It never came.

Anonymous said...

Here's what I do not understand about the CC of Jackson bill allowing them to go back to their own well, the CC of Jackson does not have sewer treatment facilities, so they will still need to rely on the City for sewer service or contract with West Rankin. Sewage fees are the majority of the water bill, so they will not be saving much money. Also, unless they disconnect their water mains from the City, they will be providing the City with water.

Anonymous said...

So, Let me get this straight, Kingfish. In your 10:33 response you corrected the 10:17 comment that it wasn't Wingate that mentioned the 6,500 accounts, but was Henifin who said 6,500 improved properties have no account with the Water Department.

So possibly the Water Department has 6,500 (no acc't) + 1,100 (Ecode acc'ts) = 7,600 non-paying accounts? How many total connections did Henifin say they have?

Anonymous said...

10:17 here. I stand corrected. I read the article wrong. Judge Wingate did not say there are 6500 E-coded accounts. Henifin said the E-coded accounts may explain why there are 6500 improved properties that do not have water accounts. My apologies.

Anonymous said...

not a sole will step up and take responsibility for these water thefts-

Anonymous said...

They wont spend a single hour of Super Ted's time attempting to punish the thieves.

It is simply the Democrats turn to steal so nobody will say a word.

Biden's EPA cannot be bothered, why would anyone attempt to seek justice here?

Anonymous said...

Here's the question - how much did a water department employee charge to setup an 'E' code? I'm sure there were friends accounts but how many friends are there? Maybe for profit. Also, depending on how the computer system was created, each transaction should be documented in a table that identifies the user who made the change (along with a date and timestamp). That person should be investigated, possibly prosecuted, and lose any and all benefits. I would like to see some accountability.

Anonymous said...

10:51 You are exactly right Henifin is looking for making a name for himself. He may have higher aspirations also with Lumumba! How much FREE-er does it get than free. Why is it racist to expect everyone to pay THEIR OWN FAIR SHARE ? Those were the MAYOR of Jackson’s words I believe.

Anonymous said...

don't forget there were a dozen or so workers who were fired for not turning meters off. they were get paid by the former customers. maybe 2018, before covid 19;

Anonymous said...

Kingfish---Henifin had asked for SNAP list to use for meter reduction. US filed motion saying, no, info can't be released, but gave him a few ways to accomplish what he was trying to do. Wander whatever happened to the Ecode accounts.

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