August 17, 2009 Quick Update: Marietta Daily Journal runs an Editorial entitled ‘Throw the Rascals Out’ in the Around Town section. Read Now.
A Police Raid of Executive Homes Yield Charges of Racketeering and Theft by Man Behind the Proposed Plant Washington Coal-fired Power Plant
On April 22nd, the homes of the CEO and 3 board members of Cobb EMC, an electric utility based in Metro Atlanta, were raided in an investigation for “theft” and “breach of their fiduciary duty.” The Cobb County District Attorney’s office, the county sheriff’s office, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation were all involved in this major raid more reminiscent of a TV drama than to life in suburban Atlanta.
The men being investigated, CEO Dwight Brown and board members Larry Chadwick, David McGinnis, and Frank Boone, along with the other Cobb EMC board members, have also been sued by members of their utility cooperative for actions related to their breach of fiduciary responsibility and transfer of member’s money and assets to a private company also run by Dwight Brown, called Cobb Energy. Just a few days ago, the Marietta Daily Journal reported that the men are likely to face indictment for “theft by taking and racketeering.” Watch the Fox Atlanta News Story.
Since the announcement in January 2008 that ten of Georgia’s electric membership corporations or EMC’s formed a consortium called Power4Georgians to build an 850 MW coal plant, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy has actively organized to stop the construction of Plant Washington. At a time when costs for coal plants have rapidly escalated and federal carbon legislation is pending, we believe building coal plants is a tremendous economic liability.
In fact, together with Synapse Energy Economics, we issued The Risks of Building and Operating Plant Washington – a report that demonstrates just how risky the building of a coal plant is for Georgia and these EMCs.
So how do we draw the connection on the corruption? It has become increasingly clear that Dwight Brown in his (now seemingly corrupt) role as CEO of Cobb EMC and Cobb Energy is a key player in advocating for the construction of Plant Washington. Here’s how:
* In filings with the Georgia Secretary of State, Cobb EMC CEO Dwight Brown listed himself as the “organizer” of Power4Georgians, LLC.
* Dwight Brown is the lead signature in the permit application to the Georgia EPD for Plant Washington.
* In the EPD permit application, Dwight Brown is listed as a “Management Committee Member” for Power4Georgians.
These previous points show how Dwight Brown and Cobb EMC is involved in Plant Washington, but the truly concerning aspects are highlighted by these facts:
* Allied Energy Services, the company hired by Power4Georgians to ensure construction of Plant Washington, is a fully owned subsidiary of Dwight Brown’s private spinoff of Cobb EMC, Cobb Energy.
* There is no evidence that Allied Energy Services has any experience with the construction of a coal-fired power plant.
* No evidence has been presented of a competitive bidding process to give the contract to Allied Energy Services.
* According to Dwight Brown’s testimony, the CEO of Allied Energy Services and spokesperson of Power4Georgians, Dean Alford, is a Senior Vice President of Cobb Energy and owned 30,000 preferred shares of Cobb Energy.
* According to Dwight Brown’s testimony, Dean Alford co-owns a real estate firm with Dwight Brown called Alumni Properties.
Power4Georgians claims that Plant Washington will cost $2.1 billion dollars while verifiable trends indicate that a plant of this size will in fact cost much more. Nevertheless, such an enormous investment in the hands of men being accused of theft and a breach of their fiduciary duty should be a concerning thought for members of the 10 EMC’s involved in Power4Georgians. The Cobb EMC Truth website has a rundown of numerous other conflicts of interest that Dwight Brown created as CEO of Cobb EMC and Cobb Energy, including…
“According to documents filed in Cobb Superior Court, Dwight Brown was made CEO of both Cobb EMC and Cobb Energy and his income went from approx. $250,000 to approx $1.6 million per year including $265,500 of “dividends” per year since 2002 on Cobb Energy stock owned by Mr. Brown and his wife. According to documents filed in Cobb Superior Court, this has in part been funded from fees charged by Cobb Energy to Cobb EMC.”
Plant Washington should not be allowed to move forward due to concerns about the corrupt leaders at the helm and the potential to further enrich themselves at the cost to EMC members. The proposal for Plant Washington is even more outrageous given the fact that cheaper, cleaner, and less risky alternatives exist. The study on Plant Washington by Synapse Energy Economics concluded by emphasizing that “Contrary to the claims of Power4Georgians, there are a number of alternatives that could provide power at costs lower than Plant Washington.”
We believe that Georgia’s significant renewable energy potential remains largely untapped. Through a combination of energy efficiency initiatives and renewable energy sources such as biomass, off-shore wind, and solar power, Georgia can meet future energy demands without relying upon polluting, outdated technologies such as coal. Not only do we have alternatives, but we don’t need corrupt leaders that are under investigation leading an effort where there is great potential for private profit on the backs of EMC members. Cobb EMC members and members of the other 10 co-ops should demand that their EMC’s investment decision in Plant Washington be revisited. Furthermore, members need to take back control of their EMC’s and get moral, honorable leaders whose focus is on providing the best service to their members and the community, not on enriching themselves.
Rick LaTorra (rick[at]cleanenergy.org) contributed to this BlogPost.
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