Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Duke's Rogers: Worried Hiring IURC's Storms Was "A Bridge Too Far"

John Russell's excellent reporting at the Star of the cozy relationship between regulators at the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission and Duke Energy's top executives continues today. He has more e-mails of discussions that eventually led Duke to offer the IURC's general counsel, Scott Storms, a job working for another former IURC official, Michael Reed, the company's Indiana head. In one e-mail, Duke CEO Jim Rogers worried that hiring Storms was "a bridge too far", but the view of other Duke officials that former IURC Chairman David Hardy would be offended if a job was not extended to Storms, which exemplifies the extent of the perversion in the relationship between the regulator and regulated, ultimately prevailed in spite of the risks.

When the chairman of Duke Energy Corp., the largest utility serving Indiana, was asked last summer by a subordinate for permission to hire the top lawyer at the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, he expressed misgivings.

"It bothers me but I don't know why," James Rogers, the chairman and chief executive, wrote in an email on July 26 to James Turner, a Duke vice president. "(It) feels like a bad move at this time."

Rogers suggested the move could raise criticisms of a revolving door, coming so closely on the heels of Duke's hiring of another former IURC official, Michael Reed. It is "a bridge too far," Rogers wrote . . .

But [Kelley] Karn was in a bind. Hiring Storms might set off criticism from consumer groups. But not hiring him, she seemed to feel, could upset Hardy, the powerful chairman of the IURC.

Karn turned to her boss at Duke's corporate headquarters in Charlotte, N.C., for guidance. "This could all blow up with Hardy being mad that we won't hire Scott," she wrote in an email July 1 to her boss, Catherine Stempien, senior vice president for legal services. "I'm really not sure how to get out of this mess." . . .
Of particular concern to Gov. Mitch Daniels and the impact on his potential presidential run are e-mails that firmly establish his personal legal counsel was aware of Storm's potential hiring and supported the move.

On the same day, Turner seemed to pick up an important ally in the Statehouse: David Pippen, general counsel to Daniels. Turner sent an email to Rogers on July 26, saying he had "just talked with Pippen" and it would "be fine" to move forward with discussions on Storms.

"I was pleasantly surprised by how positive and supportive the gov's chief counsel was," Turner wrote
Not surprisingly, Daniels' spokesperson, Jan Jankowski, didn't like any spin that suggested the guv's office complicity in Duke's hiring of Storms:

A Daniels spokeswoman, Jane Jankowski, took issue Tuesday with the suggestion that Pippen had supported the idea of Duke hiring Storms.

"There was no discussion of Duke hiring Storms," she wrote in an email. "Pippen was asked about Storms' work as a state employee. Any other characterization is Turner's."

In October, The Star requested all correspondence among the governor's office, Duke and the IURC in 2010. The governor's office released some emails but denied others, saying they were "advisory communications or expressions of opinion communicated for the purpose of decision-making and thus not subject to disclosure" under the state's public records law.
The release of these latest internal Duke e-mails suggests a potential cover up by the governor's office in the role it played in this sordid affair. It isn't "a bridge to far" to think the governor's office selectively released e-mails to the Star last year to give the appearance of transparency when it moved quickly to fire Hardy after the scandal first broke last year. There will no doubt be more pressure on the governor's office to release other communications it deemed "advisory" or "expressions of opinion." You can bet national reporters, particularly given their extreme bias for Barack Obama, will seize on this scandal as a way of diminishing the many Daniels' successes as Indiana governor.

The Star provides a link to the latest release of e-mails, which you can view here. They're much worse than Russell describes them in his story. Both Duke's and the IURC's top brass should be holding their heads in total shame.


Cato said...

Wow, does Duke employ a lot of redundant managers, all making great salaries and not doing a lick of real work. Fire these suits, and give their needless salaries to the guys who climb poles.

I've seen this manner of conduct recorded by e-mails before, but it's always sad to see just how unscrupulous our corporations are.

The next time any of you get turned down for a job, you can probably be sure that some sort of back-room dealings are occurring that aren't working to pick the best or most-qualified person.

Advance Indiana said...

I long ago figured out that merit has nothing to do with getting hired at these places. The e-mails, which are well worth the read, shows just how shallow these companies are when it comes to interviewing people for these jobs.