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Sanitary Board hires interim executive director

Sep. 13, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Mayor Steve Williams appointed Lou Akers on Thursday as interim executive director of the Huntington Sanitary Board.

Akers will take over for Kit Anderson, who abruptly resigned during a Sanitary Board meeting Aug. 27 because of a dispute with Williams over a new collective bargaining agreement for the Sanitary Board's union employees.

Akers, a 62-year-old Baltimore native, will assume the duties of executive director immediately. During a news conference Thursday at City Hall, Williams said he chose the 62-year-old Baltimore native because his extensive financial background will play an important role as the Sanitary Board attempts to update its aging treatment system.

"The Huntington Sanitary Board on one hand is a very technical operation," Williams said. "In a larger sense, it's a financial engine in the city, so I wanted someone who knew how to run a complex business and understood capital markets considering all of the projects we have before us."

Akers' annual salary will be $70,000. There is no time frame on how long he will serve as executive director, and there are no immediate plans to search for a permanent replacement, Williams said.

Akers currently is a partner and president of Metrec of West Virginia, a scrap metal recycling center in Ceredo. It's a job Akers said he will not relinquish because it does not require his daily attention.

Before moving to West Virginia in 2007, Akers worked for Ferris Baker Watts, a large regional investment firm, for 18 years. He was the company's CEO from October 1998 until December 2001 and served as its vice chairman, a member of its Board of Directors and its private client group director from January 2003 until November 2005.

Akers, however, took early retirement in June 2007 amid a federal investigation that one of the firm's employees had manipulated stock prices and traded money from the accounts of unwary customers.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission fined Akers $100,160 and barred him from serving in a supervisory role for one year as a result of the federal probe. In its September 2009 order imposing the sanctions, the SEC said Akers ignored repeated warnings from the firm's compliance officers over a three-year period about employee Stephen Glantz.

Glantz pleaded guilty in 2007 to one count of securities fraud and one count of making false statements to law enforcement officials and was sentenced to 33 months in prison and ordered to pay $110,000 in restitution. In 2009, the SEC permanently barred him from having any association with a broker, dealer or investment adviser.

Akers was partially responsible for recruiting and hiring Glantz in January 2003, despite numerous customer complaints and warnings from Ferris Baker Watts employees that Glantz had a questionable reputation in the industry, according to SEC filings.

Despite numerous audits, memos and meetings expressing concerns about Glantz's activity, Akers went against compliance officers' recommendations to terminate Glantz in December 2004 and instead recommended that he become Glantz's special supervisor, according to SEC filings. An internal memo spelled out Akers' supervisory responsibilities over Glantz, but they were never fulfilled, according to SEC filings.

"While under Akers' supervision, Glantz continued to engage in unauthorized, unsuitable and manipulative trading in his customers' accounts," according to the order imposing Akers' sanctions.

Akers acknowledged the SEC-imposed sanctions after the news conference Thursday and said he agreed with them.

"There were red flags, and I should have caught them," Akers said. "That's really what it was all about. You make mistakes, and you can either not learn from them or they can make you a better person."

Williams, who was an investment broker before being elected mayor in 2012 and has known Akers for several years, said he was aware of the sanctions before making the appointment.

"I know Lou, and I trust him, and his business acumen and awareness of the capital markets is what we need right now given everything we are facing at the Sanitary Board," Williams said. "He came to me before I appointed him and he asked me if the SEC sanctions would be an issue, and I said absolutely not."

As mayor, Williams also serves as chairman of the three-member Sanitary Board. The other two members are Garry Black and Alex Vence. The board did not take an official vote on Akers' hiring because it authorized Williams on Aug. 28 to appoint an interim executive director.

Follow H-D reporter Bryan Chambers on Facebook or Twitter @BryanChambersHD.

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