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FDLE says Florida Power & Light didn't violate criminal laws, maybe ethics laws

Remember that FDLE investigation into alleged fraudulent practices at Florida Power & Light, based on a series of whistleblower letters?

The unidentified FPL employees alleged, among other things, that FPL tried to manipulate its rate case by using two sets of books, improperly stamping documents as "attorney-client privilege" to keep them out of public record, keeping a witness uninformed so he could testify truthfully with no knowledge of the company's budgetary practices and by misrepresenting company data in press releases.

Never mind. That's the conclusion of FDLE in its investigative report made public today. It appears that both the whistleblowers and investigators have concluded that there's nothing criminal about what they're alleging -- only potentially unethical. (The whistleblowers did tell investigators that the allegation that there were two sets of books was a mistake.) Now, the onus is on the employees to file a complaint with the Florida Ethics Commission. It's another in the growing list of "never mind" issues surrounding FPL and the PSC.

But now that more of these details are public, the question is whether the Public Service Commission will ask FPL to answer some questions about its conduct during the rate case and its representations to its regulators. Or does the PSC just decide it's water under the bridge?

The investigation was opened by FDLE Feb. 11 after the whistleblowers contacted the agency to complain that FPL improperly tried to win their rate case by manipulating their books and testimony. When FDLE asked for more specifics they alleged, among other things, that state Sen. Chris Smith was still on FPL's payroll as a lobbyist when we was elected to the Senate, that former PSC Commissioner Rudy Bradley was negotiating a job with the company when he was still a sitting commissioner, and that FPL used Tallahassee attorney Steve Andrews to file a complaint against PSC Chairwoman Nancy Argenziano to make sure she wouldn't be reappointed to the PSC, even though the woman who signed the complaint has claimed Andrews forged her signature. Download FDLE report on PSC

FDLE's report includes laws that might apply to these allegations and concluded there aren't any criminal laws in Florida outlawing these things. So it concluded on Aug. 25 that, absent any more details and information, it would close the case.

"If the allegations being made by the anonymous group of alleged FPL employees were true, they would be ethics violations that would fall under the purview of the Florida Commission on Ethics,'' the report states. "There does not appear to be a sufficient criminal predicate, which would warrant a criminal investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement at this time."

The whistleblowers appear to agree, according to the report. One member of the group is an attorney and by July 29, had told FDLE that "no one in his group had information that would rise to the level of a criminal violation."