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Audit: Power agency spent thousands on flowers, parties
A government- owned power company that supplies wholesale electricity for 31 small Florida cities plans to pay its chief executive’s six-months salary and health insurance premiums for the rest of his life if he is fired, according to a preliminary audit report that has angered some city officials.
The Florida Municipal Power Agency also spent tens of thousands of dollars on flowers, holiday parties, travel costs and gift cards to staffers for birthdays, according to the state’s Auditor General. The Orlando-based agency’s members cover about 2 million residents, or about 10 percent of the state’s population.
The state Auditor General this week called on the Florida Municipal Power Agency in Orlando to correct practices that resulted in writing off hundreds of millions of dollars during the past decade. The organization buys or generates electricity and sells it at wholesale rates to 20 smaller cities, including Leesburg and Kissimmee.
Spotlighted in the audit were worker benefits such as 12 days of sick leave, no requirement to take vacation for absences of fewer than four hours, a pair of Magic season tickets used by employees “and guest,” no limits on meal costs, and hotel stays for employee family members paid for by the agency.
Other expenses highlighted were $12,030 for flowers, $1,517 for rental of a Christmas tree and $12,688 for holiday parties. Dinners for FMPA members in Washington in 2013 and 2014 each cost more than $3,000, with a large portion of the expense for alcohol.
“We are extremely disappointed in what we see,” Councilman Mitch Timberlake of Green Cove Springs said Friday.
“The FMP, in that report, is not performing to the standards that we would expect.”
While it is too early to take action since the final report hasn’t been completed, Timberlake said, city officials were drafting a letter expressing their concerns and disappointment.
The FMPA is owned by cities stretching from Key West to Jacksonville Beach that sell electricity to their residents.
Customers in member cities have higher rates than those that get their power from investor-owned utilities like Florida Power & Light and TECO, whose rates are subject to approval by the Public Service Commission, the preliminary report said.
The agency said it plans to respond to the audit within 30 days.
Chief Executive Officer Nicholas P. Guarriello said the agency had tried
“to faithfully administer the contracts for our members, their customers and our bondholders.” Agency board chairman Bill Conrad said the audit’s findings merited consideration.
MIKE SCHNEIDER Associated Press ORLANDO