CANTON — Entergy Mississippi will provide comply with a court order to give Madison County customer information on 20,000 local residents.
On Feb. 20, the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld a decision by the Madison County judge denying Entergy’s motion to quash a grand jury subpoena seeking information on approximately 20,000 customers in Madison and Canton zip codes.
“We believe it’s our responsibility to our customers to keep their information confidential, to the greatest extent possible,” Haley Fisackerly, president and CEO, told the Madison County Journal.
“Therefore, it’s been our policy not to release customer information to third parties. The court has decided in Madison County’s favor, however, and we will comply with its ruling.”
Tax Assessor Gerald Barber says he needs the data to help flush out homestead exemption fraud in the county. He used similar data from Madison and Ridgeland water department files.
“We will audit the 8,235 homestead accounts in the subject area that have applied for special tax exemption and compare the homestead names with the utility customers for those properties. If they don’t match we will continue to edit and investigate just like we do in the cities.
“There are sometimes legitimate reasons for the names not to match and we will determine the circumstances as we move forward,” Barber said.
Entergy called the subpoena a fishing expedition by Barber and an invasion of privacy.
The Mississippi Supreme Court said due process and privacy rights were not violated as a result of the subpoena.
“The subpoena sought names and addresses of Entergy customers,” the court said. “Individuals do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their names or addresses which appear in public records, especially in a grand jury proceeding.
“This court has approved other broad investigations which were lacking in individual suspicion but instead depended upon the broad public policy function of ensuring that laws and regulations are followed by the public.
“The state has an interest in ensuring that its constituents are paying their taxes properly,” the court said.