Duke Energy exec who resigned over ties to regulator gets $10M package

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — A top Duke Energy executive who resigned after a newspaper published e-mails detailing his social relationship with a top Indiana utility regulator will get a severance and retirement package worth more than $10 million.

Duke disclosed the package for James Turner in a government filing Thursday, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Turner resigned as president and chief operating officer of Duke’s U.S. Franchised Electric and Gas business on Monday after the Star reported that he sent numerous e-mails this year to David Lott Hardy, who was then head of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.

The Star said it obtained dozens of e-mails under an open records law request, which showed that Turner and Hardy joked and discussed personal topics, sometimes trading messages eight or 10 times a day.

Turner’s severance package included $3.75 million in severance in the form of performance shares and stock grants, the newspaper said. In addition, he will get to keep his retirement package of $6.7 million and will qualify for a bonus of more than $500,000.

Duke spokesman Thomas C. Williams told The Associated Press on Friday that the $3.75 million was in exchange for Turner agreeing to certain restrictions, such as not to work for a competitor for two years or to publish any disparaging remarks about the company. He pointed out that Turner already was entitled to the bulk of the retirement package.

In the agreement, Turner said that he “has no further or additional knowledge or information regarding compliance issues or possible violations of federal, state or local law or regulations or Duke policy.”

Gov. Mitch Daniels fired Hardy in October, saying Hardy was aware of job discussions Duke was having with top utility commission attorney Scott Storms but didn’t stop Storms from handling Duke cases.

Storms had overseen matters related to a $2.9 billion coal-gasification plant the utility is building near Edwardsport in southwestern Indiana. Its construction costs are nearly double the original 2007 estimate.

Duke, a group of industrial customers and the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor filed paperwork Thursday withdrawing from a Sept. 17 agreement that allowed Duke to pass along $2.9 billion of the costs to consumers. Duke Chairman James E. Rogers said the parties would start new talks.

Storms left the utility commission in September to become a regulatory attorney with Duke’s Indiana operations.

Last month, officials at Duke’s corporate headquarters fired Storms and Mike Reed, who became president of Duke Energy-Indiana in June. Reed took that job about 16 months after leaving the state utility commission as its executive director and spending a year as head of the state highway department under Daniels.

The Star reported that the e-mails between Turner and Hardy showed they frequently discussed Storms and Reed, as those two went through job interviews with Duke this year. Hardy wanted constant reports on the hiring process.

Duke is Indiana’s largest electric utility, with 780,000 customers in 69 of the state’s 92 counties.

Turner was president of Cinergy when that company and Duke merged in 2006, after which he became a senior Duke executive.

Photo: Adam Baker/Flickr