Monday, December 06, 2010

Turner Out At Duke Over Ethics Flap

The second highest paid executive at Duke Energy has resigned his position in the enveloping scandal involving the controversial hiring of the IURC's general counsel, Scott Storms, by Duke while he served as an administrative law judge on matters directly impacting the regulated utility. The resignation of James Turner comes after the Indianapolis Star revealed damning e-mail exchanges between Turner and IURC officials discussing Storm's hiring, as well as personal communications that revealed an intricately tight relationship between Turner and the IURC's former chairman, David Hardy, who Gov. Mitch Daniels fired after the controversial hiring occurred this fall. The Star's Ted Evanoff has an online update regarding Turner's resignation:

Duke Energy said today that senior executive James L. Turner is resigning after concerns arose over reports of recently published e-mail communications.

Turner, the second-highest paid executive at the utility, carried on a social relationship with David Lott Hardy when he headed the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.

The Indianapolis Star recently reported it obtained dozens of e-mails under an open records' law request that showed the two men joked and aired personal topics, sometimes trading messages eight or 10 times a day.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels recently fired Hardy.

Turner was president and chief executive officer of the utility’s U.S. franchised gas and electric business.

"As a leader, I have a duty to exercise the highest level of professionalism at all times in my communications," Turner said in a statement issued about 9 a.m. "In certain e-mails to a former commissioner in Indiana, I fell short of this standard. I am choosing to step away at this time so that our company and our employees can begin to move on from this distraction. I believe this is the best path forward for me and the company."

Jim Rogers, Duke Energy chairman, said in the statement, "We appreciate Jim's long service to Duke Energy and its predecessor companies. I accept Jim's decision and respect his strong sense of personal accountability."

Turner has served as a senior leader of Duke Energy since 2006 when Cinergy and Duke Energy merged. Turner joined Cinergy in 1995.

If ever we had a local case of honest services fraud under federal law, this case should qualify. The FBI is investigating the relationship between Duke Energy and IURC officials as a result of the Star's solid reporting on the cozy relationship between the regulators and regulated that resulted in not only the firing of the IURCs chairman but also led Duke Energy to fire its Indiana president, Mike Reed, and the newly-hired Storms. My concern is that U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett's close relationship with several high-ranking Duke officials, including Turner, might impede any potential prosecution of a case built by the FBI. I would encourage the Star's reporters, if they haven't already, to request e-mails and other correspondence between all current IURC commission members and officials with regulated utilties. They might discover the cozy relationship with Duke Energy was not unique.

1 comment:

Bradley said...

Didn't know if you saw this or not, Gary, but it seemed interesting and shows a sign of what you hope for regarding the Star (and others) who keep digging into the IURC mess -- the "Water Cooler" feature of the Star from yesterday:

Of particular note was a question about how much Doug Webber will actually do as the "Ethics Officer" at IURC, and another interesting tidbit was regarding how a reporter from the Wall Street Journal (who wrote an award-winning book on Enron's downfall called 24 days) is now digging into the Duke/IURC debacle.

I hope she REALLY digs.