JWC Board Member Responds to Mail-Outs

JENKINSVILLE (Jan. 26, 2017) – “My name is Peach, and I’m the guy that wrote the letter,” Preston Peach said, rising from his seat on the Jenkinsville Water Company (JWC) Board to address the 100 or so JWC members assembled for the company’s annual meeting at the former Jenkinsville fire station on Jan. 11.

The referenced letter was one of two written by Peach and mailed in late December, along with a JWC newsletter, printed in color on glossy paper, to 800-plus members of the water company. The first letter was mailed with the newsletter in an envelope pre-printed with the company’s name and address in the upper left corner. It appeared to be mailed by the company.

In the letter, Peach randomly praised the water company’s leadership, defended the Board’s various decisions and actions, lamented what he called “complaints at every Board meeting from one person” and criticized The Voice’s news reports on JWC Board meetings as “mischaracterizing the conduct of the Board and the water company itself.”

After The Voice reported, on Dec. 15, that a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit had been filed on Dec. 5 against the JWC by customer Donald Melton, Peach sent out a second letter on Jan. 5, directed primarily at The Voice for its “negative front page (lawsuit) story.”

“Using the words ‘alleges,’ ‘claims,’ ‘according to,’ etc., to shield (itself) in publishing accusations from another person that are unproven, is not a defense for defamation,” Peach wrote. He signed the full-page, single-spaced letter, “Sincerely, Preston Peach, Jenkinsville Water Company Board member.”

This letter was also mailed to the company’s 800-plus water customers in an envelope pre-printed with the company’s name and address. Like the first letter, it appeared to have been mailed by the company.

A letter to the editor, published in The Voice on Dec. 29, questioned whether Peach mailed his letters of personal opinion on the JWC’s dime.

In a 20-minute soliloquy during the Jan. 11 annual meeting, Peach took the opportunity to address the uproar from all corners as to who paid for the mailings.

“I paid for all the postage, all the printing, all the envelopes, even the colored newsletter on glossy paper that went out (to JWC customers). All out of my own pocket to the tune of over a $1,000,” Peach told the audience whose skepticism was audible in the crowded room.

“I ordered 2,500 envelopes over the internet,” Peach told The Voice on Tuesday during a phone interview. He said he had the envelopes emblazoned with the company name and address to look official. Then he wrote a newsletter for the company and had it and the two letters printed at Copy Pickup on Millwood Ave. in Columbia. He said he paid for the postage as well.

Peach told The Voice that he did it to help the company out.

“The Board members are trying to make the water company work and we are being sued right and left. It’s costing us time and money,” Peach said.

He also pointed out that after the lawsuit was filed against the JWC for alleged Freedom of Information Act violations, the company has tried to do the right thing. It has issued agendas, he said, and, unlike last year at the annual meeting, did not elect new Board officers in executive session this year.

“But our bylaws call for us to elect our officers in executive session, so we aren’t doing anything wrong to do it that way,” he told The Voice. “Our bylaws say that after the meeting is over, the Board members are to elect officers from among themselves. That means in executive session. We are going by our bylaws.”

Article V, Sec. 1 of the company’s bylaws states, “. . . the Board of Directors shall immediately, following the annual Members’ meeting, elect a President and Vice-President from among themselves and a Secretary and Treasurer who need not be Members of the Board of Directors. . .”

The next meeting of the JWC will be Feb. 6, at 6 p.m., in the former Jenkinsville fire station next to the water company.