Duke Energy Exec James Turner Resigns Over Ethics Flap
The second-highest-paid executive at Duke Energy - James Turner - resigned today. He's the latest job casualty in a widening scandal over ethics violations. Turner's job as Chief Operating Officer put him in charge of Duke Energy's regulatory activities, which is why a series of emails published last week in the Indianapolis Star raised eyebrows. In the emails, Turner is seen bantering with the head of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission: inviting the commissioner for a holiday boat ride, joking about their favorite sports teams, sharing inside details about personnel decisions at Duke Energy. All the while that same utilities commission chairman was making major decisions to ensure Duke Energy's success in Indiana. "To have that kind of access is just simply inappropriate," says Grant Smith, Executive Director of the Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana which is pushing for reform of the state's regulatory system. "The public does not have that kind of access. We do not have that kind of access." In a statement, Turner said the emails led him to resign. "I have a duty to exercise the highest level of professionalism at all times in my communications . . . and I fell short of this standard," said Turner. "I am choosing to step away at this time so that our company and our employees can begin to move on from this distraction." Turner will not be replaced at Duke. Instead, the heads of Duke's operations in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and the Carolinas will report directly to CEO Jim Rogers. "The whole Indiana situation has Jim Rogers' full attention," says Duke spokesman Tom Williams. The "whole Indiana situation" refers to multiple state and internal investigations into Duke Energy's hiring of a top attorney at the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission earlier this year. While that attorney was weighing in on decisions that could clear the way for Duke to build a massive coal fired plant in Indiana, he was also simultaneously negotiating a plum job with Duke. Duke Energy has since fired that attorney and the president of Duke Energy Indiana. The Governor of Indiana fired the utility commission chairman, too. And now the scandal has arrived on the doorstep of Duke CEO Jim Rogers, with the resignation of his number two man.