Since Bill Johnson was forced out as chief executive officer of the combined Duke Energy-Progress Energy after about 20 minutes or so on the job, Progress employees (those that are left, anyway, after hundreds of layoffs), Raleigh leaders and the public have been worried that the Duke deal will now turn into a boondoggle for the capital city.
Later came word that Johnson’s three top lieutenants who were supposed to have top jobs at the combined Duke-Progress have also “resigned.”
The North Carolina Public Utilities Commission and North Carolina’s Attorney General Roy Cooper are still looking for answers with Johnson testifying to the PUC.
Last Tuesday, Duke Chairman/CEO Jim Rogers sat for four hours under the microscope of PUC inquiry during which he laid the blame for Johnson’s ouster on the combined Progress-Duke board.
In reality, the vote was 10-5, with all the Duke folks voting Johnson out and Rogers in as CEO. Merger terms dictated Duke would rule the board 11-6 anyway. Rogers and Johnson did not vote (they were sent out of the room). The Progress team didn’t have a chance to stop the Duke juggernaut.
Even if Duke’s story as told by Rogers and through various pronouncements by the board is true – that Johnson apparently was lacking as a manager and Progress executives’ attitude was that they were taking over the much larger Duke – how this entire matter has been handled is nothing short of outrageous.
Let’s hope the PUC can uncover what happened at Duke – and why.
As for Rogers’ assurances that Raleigh would remain important to Duke, Rogers told the PUC: “I understand your dilemma in not being totally able to trust me.”
Even PUC Commissioner Susan Rabon asked Rogers if the commission had been “duped in this process.” The PUC Chairman Edward Finley Jr. has said that if the commission it had known Johnson would not be the CEO, the merger might not have received approval.
Many people would like to see the PUC do one thing, which it clearly has the authority by statute to do:
Undo the merger before the damage to Raleigh and Progress customers gets any worse.