Amid political scandal, FPL CEO announces retirement

TAllahassee — After what his boss called a year of “distraction,” Florida Power & Light CEO Eric Silagy announced his retirement Wednesday after media coverage of his The covert role in manipulating state and local election campaigns has garnered months of negative coverage.

Silagy, 57, spent 20 years at the nation’s largest monopoly electric utility, rising from vice president of regulatory and state affairs to chief executive of FPL. He was named chairman of the company last year.

The news of Silagy’s retirement was announced during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call. NextEra President and CEO John Ketchum said Armando Pimentel, who previously held several senior management positions at NextEra Energy, will rejoin the company and be named FPL President and CEO.

“When John became CEO of NextEra Energy last year, I made a promise to him that I would serve in my role for at least another year, and I have now delivered on that promise,” Silagy said in prepared remarks. “While it is always difficult to say ‘goodbye’ to such a great organization, I know now is the right time for me to hand over the FPL.”

Over the past few years, Siraj has been embroiled in a series of political scandals.Reports from the Miami Herald and other news organizations revealed that FPL secretly manipulated a state senate election, make legislation in secret To maintain control of the solar market, snap up a Jacksonville utility, push for higher electricity rates for residential customers, use private detectives to track down a reporter it doesn’t like, and secretly take over a supposedly independent news site to attack critics .

related: Firm working for FPL took control of news site, letting executives influence reporting, records show

In October, the Washington-based Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that a covert fundraising network created by political operatives working for FPL and other clients appeared to violate campaign finance laws and should be scrutinized. investigation.

No ‘ties’ to federal investigation

During a question-and-answer session with financial analysts, Ketchum denied any connection between the federal investigation and Silagy’s retirement.

“We didn’t make a connection,” Ketchum responded. When he was picked to replace former NextEra CEO Jim Robo, Silagy told him he would give him a one-year commitment to stay with the company, he said.

“Eric met his commitment to me. 2022 is obviously a challenging year, you know, Eric experienced distractions in his prepared speeches, but when you think about the hurricanes he had to overcome, the high gas All the challenges with prices and inflation in the supply chain, and you know the media allegations and all those things, I think it took a toll.”

During his tenure, Silagy built a reputation for his willingness to use the company’s deep pockets to channel campaign contributions to elected officials, often using secretive nonprofits and elaborate schemes devised by out-of-state advisers and Florida attorneys to protect Company involvement.

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An anonymous letter sent to NextEra Energy’s then-CEO Robo on November 4, 2021 was leaked to the Miami Herald and other news organizations. It includes dozens of internal documents showing how consultants avoided leaving paper trails inside FPL by sending text messages to Silagy’s cell phone or communicating with Silagy using his personal Yahoo email account.

In a series of emails, Silagy used the pseudonym “Theodore Hayes” to communicate with political consultant Jeff Pitts. Silagy also took a personal interest in former state Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Miami Democrat, climate change advocate and frequent critic of FPL.

When Rodriguez introduced a bill to open up the solar market to competition in January 2019, Silagy wrote to FPL lobbyists John Holley and Daniel Martell: “JJR is at it again. I want you to make his life hell…say real.”

FPL has denied any effort to circumvent federal campaign finance laws. When Robo was asked about the allegations last year, he said the company conducted an internal investigation and determined there was no violation of law. Ketchum repeated that claim on Wednesday.

“Based on our investigation, we do not believe FPL will be liable for violating federal campaign finance regulations,” he said. He said there is currently “no formal legal process” with the FEC and that NextEra will file a motion to dismiss.

“A claim like this based solely on media reports and allegations is not the type of claim the FEC should be dealing with,” he said, suggesting that the total amount of donations implicated in the allegations “does not exceed $1.3 million.”

“We don’t believe the federal charges, as I said, will have a material impact on our business as a whole,” he said.

Political influence and entanglements

The documents also describe a picture of Silagy as an executive who was very interested in the company’s political operations, the outcome of legislative races and, above all, how the company was portrayed in the media.

His advisers plan to buy The Capitolist, a Tallahassee-based conservative website known for its self-described “bitter tone.” After two years of negotiations, FPL consultant Abigail MacIver created a Delaware-based company, using money advanced to her by FPL to pay the site’s founder, former Rick Scott communications director Brian Burgess’ fees. She will serve as company president, but Burgess will also report to former Silagy deputy Tim Fitzpatrick.

The emails show how Silagy suggested story ideas to Burgess that reflected positive reviews of his company, negative reviews of critics, and developed stories about reporters he considered unfriendly, including those at the Miami Herald .

In 2009, Silagy directed FPL’s campaign targeting two members of the Florida Public Service Commission appointed by former Gov. Charlie Crist. At FPL’s urging, the Senate will not confirm Nancy Argenziano and Nathan Skop in 2010.

A native of Louisiana, Silagy holds a BA in Economics from the University of Texas and a Law Degree from Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, DC. NextEra Energy in 2003.

His successor, Pimentel, was a member of NextEra’s senior management team from May 2008 to March 2019 after serving as CFO of NextEra and FPL. He retired in 2019.

Pimentel will take over on February 15 and will work with Silagy on the transition, FPL said. Silagy’s last day at the company is May 15th.

Shares of NextEra were down about 7 percent at midday trading on the New York Stock Exchange to about $78 a share.

This report supplements material from the Florida News Agency.