Court awards severance to former utility executive

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - A former utility executive who once accused the Memphis mayor of conspiring against him has been awarded $275,000 in severance pay.

William Thompson won a court ruling based on the state's open meetings law. His job as chief operating officer for Memphis Light, Gas and Water was eliminated two years ago after Joseph Lee, the utility's new president, said the company was top-heavy with executives.

In a suit opposing a cut in severance pay, Thompson argued that Mayor Willie Herenton and Lee conspired against him because he cooperated with an FBI investigation believed to be focused on the utility's purchase of electricity from the Tennessee Valley Authority.

No criminal charges have come from that investigation, and Thompson eventually dropped the conspiracy claim. Thompson continued to argue that two members of the utility's board of directors discussed severance policies in private before voting on them in public.

Judge D.J. Alissandratos ruled that the board members violated Tennessee's open meetings law.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)