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Duke's battles in spotlight as utility's shareholders meeting looms

In quieter times, Duke Energy would strut into its first annual shareholders meeting since becoming the country's biggest electric power company. Instead, it's stumbling into the May 1 event preoccupied with damage control. It faces a half-billion-dollar lawsuit filed by nuclear reactor maker Westinghouse for allegedly unpaid services rendered at the now-defunct Levy County nuclear power plant site north of Tampa.

Worse, Duke must deal with rising legal and environmental woes from its massive coal ash spill in February into North Carolina's Dan River. A federal grand jury was set to convene last month as part of a criminal investigation triggered by a toxic sludge spill that coated 70 miles of river.

At the upcoming meeting, Duke shareholders should vote against the re-election of four directors responsible for risk and safety matters at Duke because of that spill. So argue two big investors in Duke: the California Public Employees' Retirement System and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

No doubt, Duke will do its best to minimize such difficulties in front of shareholders.

• • •

It was 20 years ago today … when the Tampa Bay Partnership was born. Hence Monday's photos posted to Twitter — of cupcakes celebrating two decades of the regional marketing organization, and of past TBP chairmen gathered for a group shot. Among them: Jack Critchfield, long-retired chairman of Florida Progress, bankers Roy McCraw and Dan Mahurin, USF chief Judy Genshaft and lawyer Rhea Law.

Here's one of the first things the Tampa Bay Times (then the St. Petersburg Times) reported about TBP way back in November of 1989:

"The often-discussed cooperation of Tampa Bay area economic development organizations nears fruition today, when three local groups will meet in Tampa to polish plans for their first joint efforts as the Tampa Bay Partnership. The new organization, which binds the Pinellas Economic Development Council, Tampa Committee of 100 and the Committee of 100 of Pasco County, will hammer out plans for a variety of regional projects … "

So happy 20th, TBP. You've come a long way, if often on a rocky path. But now you're out of the teen years. Right?

• • •

Monday also happened to be a celebratory day in the newsroom of the Tampa Bay Times, where it was announced the paper had won this year's Pulitzer Prize for local reporting in Tampa. It is the paper's 10th Pulitzer.

Kudos to reporters Will Hobson and Michael LaForgia for, in the words of Pulitzer judges, "their relentless investigation into the squalid conditions that marked housing for the city's substantial homeless population, leading to swift reforms."

Locally, we know their work better for exposing the unknown business sideline of slumlord William "Hoe" Brown, the former Port of Tampa chairman and one of Tampa Bay's prominent political fundraisers. That's the kind of work papers are supposed to do.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at rtrigaux@tampabay.com.

Duke's battles in spotlight as utility's shareholders meeting looms 04/14/14 [Last modified: Monday, April 14, 2014 8:01pm]
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