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PSC issues subpoena for Aloha Utilities' streetlight records in west Pasco

HOLIDAY — For nearly six months, state regulators have asked former Aloha Utilities officials for billing records that could show whether the company overcharged customers for streetlight services. So far, the company has failed to turn over the documents.

Now, lawyers for the Florida Public Service Commission have raised the stakes: They have issued a subpoena to the former utility's principals, demanding to see the records by May 28.

"They want to see the documents," said commission spokesman Todd Brown. "It always sounded like the documents were forthcoming but we didn't get anything."

Aloha has paid Progress Energy for the electricity and then billed thousands of west Pasco residents, including many in Tahitian Gardens and Tiki Village, for the service.

That's fine as long as the company is only breaking even. But if Aloha turned a profit, authorities said, it would be in violation of state law.

Companies that resell at a profit are considered electric utilities subject to full regulation by the commission.

Aloha sold its water and wastewater operations to a governmental authority early last year, but continued billing for street lighting — as well as trash collection — in some neighborhoods.

In October, the former utility's principals — Lynnda Speer and Stephen Watford — filed documents with the state division of corporations to change the company's name to MMLJ Holdings.

Speer, the wife of HSN founder Roy Speer, did not return phone messages Thursday.

The commission, after receiving a complaint from state Sen. Mike Fasano's office, began looking into the matter in November.

A longtime Aloha critic, Fasano said Thursday that if representatives of the former utility don't comply with the subpoena, he will ask the Florida Attorney General's Office for an investigation.

"You'd think Aloha would want to quickly show they were not making a profit," said Fasano, R-New Port Richey. "We're talking about not complying with a subpoena . . . It's in their court. I would encourage them to comply. If they have nothing to hide, they should comply."

Fasano said he also planned to propose to Pasco County that it draw up an ordinance saying that neighborhoods that currently pay their trash bills to MMLJ Holdings — which, in turn, pays Waste Management — should be able to choose their own haulers and avoid the middleman. He had proposed a local bill related to that issue, but it went nowhere this session.

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

PSC issues subpoena for Aloha Utilities' streetlight records in west Pasco 05/13/10 [Last modified: Thursday, May 13, 2010 9:04pm]
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