Make us your home page
Instagram

Dispute over streetlight bills could land Aloha in court

Last month, state regulators issued a subpoena to former Aloha Utilities officials, demanding to see billing records that could show whether the company overcharged customers for streetlight services.

The deadline passed — and none of the requested records surfaced.

Now, the Florida Public Service Commission says it's taking Aloha to court over its failure to comply with the subpoena. And state Sen. Mike Fasano, a longtime Aloha critic, is asking prosecutors to investigate whether the company broke state law for the unauthorized sale of electricity.

"They've done something wrong, because if they haven't done anything wrong they would show the PSC the paperwork that was requested," said Fasano, a New Port Richey Republican.

Aloha's principals — Lynnda Speer and Stephen Watford — last year changed the company's name to MMLJ Holdings. Speer, the wife of HSN founder Roy Speer, did not return a message left Monday with her home's caretaker.

Aloha sold its water and wastewater operations last year but continued billing for streetlighting — as well as trash collection — in some neighborhoods, including Aloha Gardens in Holiday and Veterans Village in New Port Richey.

When it came to the street-lighting charges, Aloha paid Progress Energy then billed residents.

That's okay as long as the company is breaking even. But if Aloha made a profit, authorities said, it would be in violation of state law: Companies that sell electricity at a profit are considered electric utilities and are subject to full regulation by the Public Service Commission.

For the last nearly six months, the commission has been seeking documents that could show whether the company made money.

And it appears that amid the investigation, the company formerly known as Aloha has stopped billing for streetlight services.

Last month, when they got their quarterly bill for trash and streetlights, a number of residents reported they no longer saw the streetlighting assessment.

Fasano said he checked with Progress Energy and was assured that the lights would stay on.

"Something doesn't smell right with Aloha Utilities," he said, "and I don't mean the water this time."

The senator wrote a letter asking Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe and Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum to investigate, saying Aloha "conceivably charged millions of dollars in electric rates over the 30-plus years it was in operation. The resources of your office are needed to bring this company and its former owners to justice."

The Public Service Commission cut Aloha's principals a break on the subpoena's May 28 deadline because the principals had just hired a new lawyer.

That lawyer told commission staff on Friday that his clients would not send any billing records, commission attorney Curt Kiser told Fasano in an e-mail. Kiser said he ordered his staff to get the matter before a circuit judge in Leon County.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6247.

Dispute over streetlight bills could land Aloha in court 06/09/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 9, 2010 8:51pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Last orca calf born in captivity at a SeaWorld park dies

    Tourism

    ORLANDO — The last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program died Monday at the company's San Antonio, Texas, park, SeaWorld said.

    Thet orca Takara helps guide her newborn, Kyara, to the water's surface at SeaWorld San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas, in April. Kyara was the final killer whale born under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program. The Orlando-based company says 3-month-old Kyara died Monday. [Chris Gotshall/SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment via AP]
  2. Miami woman, 74, admits to voter fraud. Does jail await, or will she go free?

    State Roundup

    MIAMI — An 74-year-old woman pleaded guilty Monday to filling out other people's mail-in ballots while working at Miami-Dade's elections department.

    Gladys Coego
  3. Bigger ships carry Georgia ports to record cargo volumes

    Economic Development

    SAVANNAH, Ga. — Bigger ships arriving through an expanded Panama Canal pushed cargo volumes at Georgia's seaports to record levels in fiscal 2017, the Georgia Ports Authority announced Monday.

    The Port of Savannah moved a record 3.85 million container units in fiscal 2017, the state said, benefiting from the larger ships that can now pass through an expanded Panama Canal.
  4. Dragon ride in Harry Potter section of Universal closing for new themed ride

    Florida

    Universal Orlando announced Monday that it will close Dragon Challenge for a new "highly themed" Harry Potter ride to open in 2019 — sending wizard fans into a guessing game with hopes for a Floo Powder Network or the maze from the Triwizard Tournament.

    Universal Orlando announced Monday that it will close Dragon Challenge on Sept. 5 for a new "highly themed" Harry Potter ride to open in 2019. The ride, originally the Dueling Dragons roller coaster, was renamed and incorporated into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter when the hugely popular area opened in 2010.
  5. Would you let your company implant a chip in you?

    Working Life

    Would you ask an employee to get a chip implanted in her hand? Sounds invasive and intrusive. But come Aug. 1, one company in Wisconsin will be giving it a try.

    Three Square Market - a developer of software used in vending machines - is offering all of its employees the option to get a microchip implanted between the thumb and forefinger. [Photo from video]