Corruption at Helm of Plant Washington – Dwight Brown Indicted

Guest Blog | January 7, 2011 | Coal, Energy Policy

UPDATE: On Jan. 8, the Marietta Daily Journal published an article including SACE and others’ on responses to the indictment.

On Thursday, Jan 6, 2011 Dwight Brown, CEO of Cobb EMC, was indicted by a Cobb County Grand Jury on 31 counts of theft, false statement, racketeering, and conspiracy.  Cobb EMC is the lead organizer of Power4Georgians, the consortium of Georgia electric co-ops (EMCs) planning to build coal-fired Plant Washington and its twin, Plant Ben Hill.  The indictment supports SACE’s May, 2009 analysis that Plant Washington is inextricably compromised by mismanagement at Cobb EMC.

“This detailed indictment further heightens our concerns about the financial risks faced by EMC members who are part of Dwight Brown’s Power4Georgians company,” said Ulla Reeves of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “It appears that EMCs in Power4Georgians have little to gain and a lot to lose by becoming involved with Brown in building unaccountably expensive coal plants. It’s time that members were protected from such dubious and unnecessary projects like Plant Washington.”

The other EMCs currently invested in Power4Georgians and Plant Washington are Snapping Shoals EMC, Central Georgia EMC, Washington EMC, and Upson EMC.

To us, Cobb County District Attorney Pat Head’s indictment highlights the need for transparency regarding Plant Washington.  To ensure that the leaders and members of partner EMCs can make an informed decision about this multi-billion-dollar investment, Power4Georgians must publicly disclose:

  • The updated cost of Plant Washington, which hasn’t been revised since 2008 despite rapidly increasing costs for other similar plants nationwide;
  • The updated need for Plant Washington, which also hasn’t been revised since 2008, despite major decreases in electric usage trends in the last 3 years;
  • How Plant Washington will be paid for, and how it will affect customers’ electric bills;
  • How the $27 million that, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the EMCs have already invested in Plant Washington has been spent;
  • Why Power4Georgians prefers to build a new coal-fired plant, while generation and transmission co-op Oglethorpe Power Company, which currently provides most of the EMCs’ electricity, sees already-constructed natural gas plants as the most cost-effective option.
Dwight Brown

Dwight Brown has close ties to Power4Georgians, Plant Washington, and Plant Washington spokesman Dean Alford.  It is increasingly clear that Brown, in his (now seemingly corrupt) role as CEO of Cobb EMC and Cobb Energy, is a key player in advocating for the construction of Plant Washington:

  • In filings with the Georgia Secretary of State, Brown listed himself as the “organizer” of Power4Georgians, LLC.
  • Brown is the lead signature in the permit application to the Georgia EPD for Plant Washington.
  • In the EPD permit application, Brown is listed as a “Management Committee Member” for Power4Georgians.

These previous points show how Dwight Brown and Cobb EMC are involved in Plant Washington, but the truly concerning aspects are highlighted by these facts:

  • Allied Energy Services, the company hired by Power4Georgians to ensure construction of Plant Washington, is a fully owned subsidiary of Cobb Energy – the very organization Brown is now accused of creating and managing for his personal enrichment.
  • There is no evidence that Allied Energy Services has any experience with the construction of a coal-fired power plant.
  • No evidence has been presented of a competitive bidding process to give the contract to Allied Energy Services.
  • According to Brown’s testimony Dean Alford, the CEO of Allied Energy Services and spokesperson of Power4Georgians, is a Senior Vice President of Cobb Energy, and the AJC reported that he owned 30,000 preferred shares of Cobb Energy.
  • According to Brown’s testimony, Dean Alford co-owns a real estate firm with Dwight Brown called Alumni Properties.

The counts Brown is now charged with are no laughing matter.  According to Brandon Wilson of the Marietta Daily Journal,

“Brown is charged with 16 counts of theft by taking, three counts of racketeering, 10 counts of making false statements, and one count each of conspiracy to defraud Cobb Government and conspiracy to defraud the Cobb County School District, both of which are EMC members.  District Attorney Pat Head said some of the charges carry a 20-year sentence, while others carry a 10-year sentence.”

Brown spent a few hours in jail and was released on his own recognizance.  He is supposed to be retiring next month as head of Cobb EMC as a result of a citizen suit settlement.

Investing in a coal plant is already a bad idea.  Investing money where corruption has been alleged at the helm is a boondoggle and simply irresponsible.  The EMCs involved in Power4Georgians ought to take a long hard look at their involvement in this plan and whether or not they want their money and their customer’s money going where mismanagement abounds.  This indictment comes just on the heals of a major blow from the Georgia Courts who rejected key pieces of the proposed Plant Washington air pollution permits, further undermining the viability of the plan.

Click here to see the press release from SACE and our allies.

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