A forensic audit covering the time that Dwight Brown led Cobb EMC and Cobb Energy shines a bright light on some of the financial questions that surfaced before and after coal-fired Plant Washington was announced 8.5 years ago. Cobb EMC – like Washington EMC – was one of the original co-operatives that formed Power4Georgians, and has since been released from further obligations. Cobb Energy was a for profit company established in 1998 under Brown’s directive.
The audit includes some big numbers for Brown and his friends. The auditors report that Brown and his wife Mary Ellen, received over $20 Million in benefits from Cobb EMC and Cobb Energy.
Brown’s private business partner and Vice-President at Cobb Energy, Dean Alford, tallied $18 million.
In addition to personally benefiting, companies led by Alford also received windfalls. Allied Utility Network obtained $5.9 million in funds syphoned from Cobb EMC. Although the bookkeeping isn’t precise, it appears that Allied Energy Services may have also received around $4 million. In addition to monetary benefits, Allied Energy secured a no-bid contract to develop coal-fired Plant Washington, even though the auditors found that “neither Alford nor Allied had any experience building or developing a coal-fired power plant, and witnesses indicated he was hired on the basis of a recommendation by Dwight Brown.”
There’s a lot of information to digest in the 150+ page executive summary of the audit that was requested by Cobb EMC Board members elected after Brown and Alford, along with others, were ousted from the electric co-op almost four years ago. However, what the audit does make clear is that another proposed coal plant was a “‘decoy’ designed as a subterfuge to keep land prices lower in Washington County.”
The audit concludes with this statement, “This report has clearly demonstrated that how the former CEO made business and accounting decisions from which he and his friends profited. There was no effective compliance and ethics program and no oversight on the part of the Board of either entity, Cobb Energy or Cobb EMC to stop the activities perpetuated by the former CEO.”
The audit clarifies many questions about financial and management decisions made at the co-op, but it also raises many new ones. Co-op members whose money has been connected to Cobb EMC and Alford’s proposed coal plant – now have renewed interest in whether additional legal charges and actions may result.