Head of main Florida power company retiring amid controversy

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida. – The head of Florida’s main power company, who has been embroiled in controversy over allegations he backed bogus election candidates and spied on a reporter, will step down next month, it was announced Wednesday .

Florida Power & Light’s parent company, NextEra Energy, announced that CEO Eric Silagy will step down on Feb. 15 and then retire in May after helping his successor, Armando Pimentel, through the transition. Pimentel, a top NextEra executive, is taking over a company that serves about 5 million homes and businesses in Florida, or about half the state.

Since Silagy took over FPL in 2011, it has nearly eliminated its use of coal-fired power plants, switching to cleaner-burning natural gas, expanding its use of solar energy, and announcing its intention to adopt “hydrogen” energy. green “. Last year, it pledged to eliminate its carbon emissions by 2045.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to lead the FPL team for over a decade and I couldn’t be more proud of the accomplishments we have delivered to our customers and the State of Florida,” he said. said in a statement. There is no indication in the statement that he was resigning over the allegations.

But the FPL has come under intense scrutiny since last year after the Orlando Sentinel and Florida Times-Union leaked documents, text messages and emails from a political consulting firm hired by the company. Newspapers accused the consulting firm, Matrix LLC, of ​​suing FPL politicians who opposed it and secretly taking over a Florida political news website and using it to give the company favorable coverage. He also spied on Times-Union columnist Nate Monroe, who had criticized the company’s bid to buy JEA, Jacksonville’s municipal electric utility.

In one case, Democratic State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez angered the FPL by proposing a bill that would have eaten into its profits.

In a 2019 chain of emails obtained by the Sentinel, Silagy told two of his vice presidents, “I want you to make (Rodriguez’s) life hell. The vice presidents forwarded the email to Matrix. In the 2020 election, Matrix largely supported the independent candidacy of an opponent of Rodriguez with the same last name. He siphoned off votes as Rodriguez lost his re-election bid. The man, who had never shown any political interest, later admitted he had been bribed to run.

Other similar mystery candidates have appeared elsewhere in the state to run against FPL critics, all with Matrix support. While others involved in these campaigns have been charged with election-related crimes, no one from the FPL or the Matrix has.

Silagy told the Sentinel he used a “poor choice of words” in his email, but denied that he or the company ever ordered The Matrix to do anything illegal. Matrix blamed a former CEO and former employees who it said acted without the owner’s knowledge.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday, NextEra said its investigation into the Sentinel and Times-Union allegations “is substantially complete” and “based on the information in our possession, we believe that FPL would not be held accountable for Florida campaign finance violations of the law.” He also says he believes the FPL will be cleared of violations of the federal election code.

In Monroe’s file were 72 pages of information about him and his family, including a surreptitious photo of him and his wife walking their dog near their home.

A Matrix spy even appeared to follow him to a wedding to hundreds of thousands of people. In a text message to an FPL executive, the spy gloated when Monroe tweeted that he was getting drunk at the reception (Monroe said he was “facetious”). Later that night, the spy used a sad face emoji when he reported to the executive that Monroe took an Uber to his hotel instead of driving. The former Matrix CEO complained to FPL that Monroe’s personal life was “boring”.

“I think it’s fair to detect an undercurrent of hostility in these recordings,” Monroe wrote in a column.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Head of main Florida power company retiring amid controversy

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