TVA manager faces prison for false statement

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A former senior project manager at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) could spend up to five years in federal prison after he admitted to falsifying several years’ worth of financial disclosure reports.

 James Christopher “Chris” Jenkins, 60, of Chattanooga, entered a guilty plea on Friday to one count of making a false official statement, according to a spokesperson from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

He faces a maximum prison sentence of five years plus up to three years of supervised release and $250,000 in fines when he’s sentenced in March by U.S. District Court Judge Travis R. McDonough. 

Jenkins was employed from May 2011 to February 2017 as a Senior Project Manager in the Nuclear Power Group and the Major Projects Group at TVA. His responsibilities placed him in a category of TVA employees who — because they negotiate with vendors and contractors — are required to report certain personal assets, sources of income, and debts each year as well as their outside financial circumstances, agreements or arrangements, according to U.S. Attorney’s spokesperson Rachelle Barnes.

“Government officials review these forms to identify conflicts of interests that may exist between TVA employees and private entities doing business with the TVA or seeking business with the TVA,” Barnes said. “For instance, a conflict of interest could, among other things, provide a TVA contractor an economic advantage over others and defeat the government’s attempt to secure a competitive contract.”

Between 2012 and 2016, however, Jenkins failed to annually disclose certain debts and income so he could profit outside the scope of his employment at TVA. This failure to report led to an actual conflict of interest from which Jenkins personally benefited, Barnes said.

“The vast majority of TVA employees serve the people of the valley by generating power, protecting our natural resources, and encouraging job growth through economic development, while also avoiding personal and financial conflicts that would undermine the public trust in TVA,” said Jill Matthews, TVA Acting Inspector General.

“Regrettably, in this instance, Mr. Jenkins failed to live up to that standard. He held a senior role at TVA with authority to negotiate with vendors and award contracts. He failed to disclose numerous conflicts with companies in which he had an ownership interest or owed substantial sums of money,” Matthews continued. 

FBI Special Agent in Charge Joe Carrico said the case was an example of the bureau’s commitment to fighting corruption. 

“There is zero tolerance for those who exploit their official position for personal gain. It erodes public confidence and undermines the Rule of Law,” Carrico said. “We want the people we serve to know the FBI along with our law enforcement partners will hold those accountable who betray the public’s trust.”

Acting U.S. Attorney Francis M. Hamilton III issued the following statement: “The integrity of government employees — especially those in supervisory or senior positions — is paramount to maintaining the public’s trust in the officials who serve the nation. Protecting the federal procurement process from false statements is central to the mission of the Department of Justice. The defendant betrayed the public’s trust by failing to disclose these debts and other financial activities. Our office is committed to safeguarding that trust through the vigorous enforcement of federal laws.”

Published on November 8, 2021.