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Amid political scandals, FPL CEO publicizes retirement


TALLAHASSEE — After what his boss referred to as a yr of “distractions,” Florida Energy & Mild CEO Eric Silagy introduced his retirement on Wednesday, after months of detrimental media stories about his secret function in manipulating state and native campaigns.

Silagy, 57, who spent 20 years on the nation’s largest monopoly electrical firm, rose from being vice chairman of regulatory and state authorities affairs to FPL’s chief govt officer. He was named chairman of the corporate final yr.

The announcement of Silagy’s retirement got here in the course of the firm’s fourth-quarter earnings name. Armando Pimentel, who beforehand served in a number of senior govt roles with NextEra Power, will rejoin the corporate and is called president and CEO of FPL, mentioned John Ketchum, president and CEO of NextEra.

“When John turned CEO of NextEra Power final yr, I dedicated to him that I’d keep in my function for a minimum of yet another yr, and I’ve now happy that dedication,” Silagy mentioned in ready remarks. “Whereas saying ‘goodbye’ to such a fantastic group is at all times troublesome, I do know that now’s the proper time for me at hand over the reins of FPL.”

Up to now few years, Silagy turned embroiled in a sequence of political scandals. Reporting by the Miami Herald and different information organizations revealed FPL’s efforts beneath his management to secretly manipulate a state Senate election, secretly craft laws to take care of its grip on the photo voltaic vitality market, snap up a public utility in Jacksonville, push for charge will increase on residential clients, tail a journalist it disliked utilizing non-public investigators, and secretly take over a supposedly unbiased information web site to assault critics.

Associated: Agency working for FPL took management of stories website, let execs affect protection, information present

In October, Residents for Duty and Ethics in Washington filed a criticism with the Federal Elections Fee alleging {that a} secret fundraising community created by political operatives working for FPL and different purchasers seems to have violated marketing campaign finance legal guidelines and must be investigated.

No ‘connection’ to federal investigation

In the course of the query and reply interval with monetary analysts, Ketchum denied there was any connection between the federal investigation and Silagy’s retirement.

“We’re not making a connection,” Ketchum responded. He mentioned that when he was chosen to succeed former NextEra CEO Jim Robo, Silagy informed him he would give him a yr dedication to remain on the firm.

“Eric happy that dedication to me. 2022 clearly was a yr with a whole lot of challenges, you realize, the distractions Eric went by way of in his ready remarks, however when you concentrate on all of the challenges that he needed to overcome with the hurricanes, and with excessive pure fuel costs, and inflation within the provide chain, and, you realize, the media allegations and all these issues, I believe it took a toll.”

Throughout his tenure, Silagy earned a repute for his willingness to make use of the corporate’s deep pockets to steer marketing campaign donations to elected officers, usually utilizing secretive nonprofits and elaborate schemes designed by out-of-state consultants and Florida attorneys to defend the corporate’s involvement.

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An nameless letter despatched on Nov. 4, 2021, to Robo, the then-CEO of NextEra Power, was leaked to the Miami Herald and different information organizations. It included dozens of inner paperwork that confirmed how consultants prevented a paper path inside FPL by speaking with Silagy by way of textual content messages to his mobile phone, or by utilizing his private Yahoo e mail account.

In a single sequence of emails, Silagy used the pseudonym “Theodore Hayes” to speak with political advisor Jeff Pitts. Silagy additionally took a private curiosity in former state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Miami Democrat, local weather change advocate and frequent critic of FPL.

When Rodriguez filed a invoice in January 2019 to open the photo voltaic market to competitors, Silagy wrote to FPL lobbyists John Holley and Daniel Martell: “JJR at it once more. I need you to make his life a dwelling hell… severely.”

FPL has denied any effort to avoid federal marketing campaign finance legislation. When Robo was requested concerning the allegations final yr, he mentioned the corporate had carried out an inner investigation and decided there was no violation of legislation. Ketchum repeated that declare on Wednesday.

“We didn’t consider that FPL can be discovered accountable for federal marketing campaign finance violation based mostly on our investigation,” he mentioned. He mentioned there may be “no formal authorized continuing” with the FEC now, and NextEra will file a movement for dismissal.

“A declare like this that is based mostly solely on media stories and allegations just isn’t the kind of a declare the FEC ought to take up,” he mentioned, suggesting the full contributions concerned within the allegations “don’t exceed $1.3 million.”

“We don’t consider that the federal allegations, taken as a complete as I mentioned, would have a fabric impression on our enterprise,” he mentioned.

Political affect and entanglements

The paperwork additionally depicted an image of Silagy as an govt who took a deep curiosity within the firm’s political operation, the end result of legislative races, and particularly how the corporate was portrayed within the media.

His consultants deliberate the acquisition of the Tallahassee-based conservative web site the Capitolist, identified for its self-described “snarky tone.” After two years of negotiations, an FPL advisor, Abigail MacIver, created a Delaware-based firm to pay the founding father of the location, former Rick Scott communications director Brian Burgess, utilizing cash superior to her from FPL. She would function the president of the corporate, however Burgess would additionally report back to a former Silagy deputy, Tim Fitzpatrick.

Emails present how Silagy would counsel story concepts to Burgess that mirrored favorably on his firm, negatively on its critics, and develop tales about reporters he thought-about unfriendly, together with these on the Miami Herald.

In 2009, Silagy directed FPL’s marketing campaign concentrating on two Florida Public Service Fee members appointed by former Gov. Charlie Christ. At FPL’s urging, the Senate wouldn’t verify Nancy Argenziano and Nathan Skop in 2010.

Silagy was born in Louisiana, has a bachelor’s diploma in economics from the College of Texas and a legislation diploma from Georgetown College Regulation Middle in Washington, DC After working as vice chairman of mergers, acquisitions & divestitures at Entergy Wholesale Operations, he was employed by NextEra Power in 2003.

His successor, Pimentel, was a member of NextEra’s senior govt group from Might 2008 to March 2019 after serving as NextEra and FPL’s CFO. I’ve retired in 2019.

Pimentel will occupy his new posts on Feb. 15 and work with Silagy on a transition, FPL mentioned. Silagy’s final day on the firm will likely be Might 15.

NextEra’s inventory worth was down about 7% to about $78 a share at midday on the New York Inventory Trade.

This report was supplemented with materials from the Information Service of Florida.

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