Investigation sheds light on possible Entergy dishonesty


Madison Mcloughlin

A New Orleans-area law firm has issued a report in which it claims to have evidence that Entergy cheated when it was trying to convince lawmakers to approve a new powerplant.

The 63-page report, released by he Law Offices of Sher Garner Cahill Richter Klein & Hilbert LLC on Oct. 29 gives what it says is evidence that the utility hired actors to vouch for the new facility, ensuring a positive outcome for the company.

For its part, Entergy released a statement saying they didn’t know the actors were being hired and disputed details in the law firm’s report.

The facility in question was announced in June of 2016 and was requested to be approved by Jan. 31, 2017, according to an Entergy press release.

“The natural gas-fired combustion turbine plant – commonly known as a CT plant – will increase the load-serving capability in New Orleans, increase operational flexibility, increase reactive power and aid in restoration efforts following major weather events,” according to the press release.

The law firm’s report claims that, through text messages and phone calls between Entergy New Orleans LLC President Charles Rice and Entergy’s New Orleans Powerplant Project Manager Yolanda Pollard, Entergy and the Hawthorn Group arranged for the public hearings Oct. 16, 2017, Dec. 13, 2017 and Feb. 21, 2018 to have a crowd of individuals supporting the new Entergy facility that would make the energy in the city more reliable.

On the other hand, an official statement from Entergy claims that the report is missing details and the conclusion is ultimately untrue.

“Upon initial review, we take exception to certain characterizations and omission of key facts from the report, including specific evidence Entergy provided that confirms it did not pay, nor did it authorize any other person or entity to pay, individuals to attend or speak at Council meetings,” said Neal Kirby, senior communications specialist of Entergy, according to an email statement.

Entergy also argued that the “Hawthorn Group acknowledged and took accountability for for its actions in a letter to Entergy dated May 9, 2018. We provided this letter to the third-party legal team, but it was also omitted from the final report” according to Roderick West, executive vice president and group president of utility operations of Entergy Corporation.

Entergy says the letters clearly prove that Hawthorn assured Entergy that there were no payments involved.

“For these reasons, we take strong exception to characterizations in the third-party report that Entergy ‘knew’ about payments made by Hawthorn and COD to individuals who attended or spoke at the City Council meetings,” West said.

Action may come soon as the New Orleans City Council looks to fine Entergy $5 million, according to The Advocate. However, the billion-dollar corporation claims the investigation left out crucial information that would prove they had no knowledge of the paid actors.

“We have serious concerns about characterizations in the report and the omission of key facts which confirm Entergy did not know about or authorize any payments to individuals to attend or speak at the City Council meetings,” Entergy CEO Rod West said in a letter to New Orleans Councilmembers.

Entergy claims the investigation failed to mention two crucial emails that Entergy claimed they sent to the investigators.

“Our concerns are about email communications that Entergy provided to the independent legal team, dated March 2018, which confirm that when Entergy heard about claims regarding payments made to Council meeting attendees and speakers,” West said.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell responded to the investigation saying that she was alarmed and disappointed, “to find that my colleagues on the Council and I were deliberately deceived, and that it was apparently done with the knowledge and support of Entergy executives.”

Additionally, Victoria Hedin, environmental science junior, is not surprised about the investigation.

“When I moved into an apartment over the summer and started paying bills, our Entergy bill for three people was $500. That’s when I started thinking something was wrong with the company themselves,” she said. “It makes me feel like there are other illegal things going on behind the scenes. I hope more things will come to light and that the citizens of New Orleans find justice for these wrongdoings.”

West wrote addressing the councilmembers in an email that Entergy recognizes that they are responsible for the hired individuals working on their behalf.

“We have outlined and continue to implement steps to ensure a situation like this does not happen again,” he said. “These steps include significant changes in leadership, additional training for employees and vendors, specific contract provisions with all our vendors to prohibit this type of behavior and conducting periodic contract assessments to verify Compliance.”

Cantrell hopes that justice will be served.

“I expect Entergy to be held accountable for this deception,” the Mayor said.