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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

FDLE's public corruption unit assigned to FPL whistleblower case

10

February

In most cases, when the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is reviewing allegations of wrongdoing, it's a closely held secret. Not always, especially when it involves anonymous sources.

Mark Perez, head of FDLE's executive investigations unit, confirmed to the Times/Herald on Wednesday that the agency's public corruption unit is handling the inquiry into the anonymous claims that Florida Power & Light broke laws and forced employees to mislead regulators, the public and shareholders. The allegations were made by people claiming to be a group of disgruntled employees.

Perez said the review is being handled by special agent Bob LeFilles, and it will involve protecting the identity of anyone who steps forward with specifics and wants their names shielded.

Meanwhile, Gov. Charlie Crist said Wednesday that he hopes the allegations are false and cautioned against making too much of them until more information emerges.

"An allegation doesn't equate to a fact,'' Crist said. He added that if the claims are true "that would be beyond unfortunate to say the least." He added that "FPL has done some very good things, particularly in the solar power area, so I want to compliment them on that and hopefully they're being truthful in every other way.''

The Public Service Commission is willing to assist in any investigation, said Curt Kiser, the agency's public counsel. "The big factor here is to provide a mechanism for confidentiality,'' he said. "We don't have any mechanism to do that, but we will be pledging our support.''

Kiser said FPL Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Wade Litchfield spoke to Kiser on Tuesday and told him that that company hired the Carlton Fields law firm to "get to the bottom of the allegations.''

Chairwoman Nancy Argenziano said she was confident there will be an attempt to validate the claims. "If they are legitimate allegations, and not some kind of smear campaign, it will be investigated,'' she said. "I don't want these people to think no one is listening.''

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[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 1:19pm]

    

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