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Senator's wife has ties to utility

But he says it has nothing to do with his amendment to help Florida's biggest power companies fend off competition.


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 7, 2000

TALLAHASSEE -- For the past several weeks, Senate Democratic Leader Buddy Dyer has been pushing an amendment to help Florida's two biggest power companies fend off competition from out-of-state utilities.

On Thursday, he acknowledged that he is more familiar than previously thought with one of the Florida companies.

His wife works for a law firm that represents one of them: Florida Power & Light.

"It has nothing to do with my amendment," Dyer said when asked about the association. He said his wife "works for a law firm that does some work for Florida Power & Light."

Dyer, a lawmaker since 1992, did not file a disclosure form with the secretary of the Senate acknowledging that his wife, Karen, is a lawyer with a firm that represented FPL. It isn't clear that he had to. Senate rules require the disclosure of "any personal, private or professional interest in a bill that would inure to that Senator's special private gain or the special gain of any principal to whom the Senator is obligated."

Mrs. Dyer is listed as one of the utility's attorneys in a Duval County lawsuit in a case that was decided Tuesday by the 1st District Court of Appeal.

She is not registered to lobby for FPL.

FPL and Florida Power Corp. are fighting so-called merchant generating companies that want to build new power plants in Florida.

Dyer has offered the amendment to a bill that Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, has introduced that could lead to the deregulation of the entire electric utility business in Florida.

The merchant companies say Dyer's amendment would establish a two-year moratorium on the construction of any new power plant, leaving the state's existing power companies in control of all generating facilities. The amendment was considered by a Senate committee Wednesday, but the panel did not vote on it.

The Public Service Commission has issued a permit to one of the merchant companies, Duke Energy Corp., to build a power plant near Daytona Beach. Florida Power and Florida Power & Light Co. have appealed the decision to the Florida Supreme Court, which has yet to rule.

In a separate case, FPL appealed an $18.4-million judgment awarded by a Jacksonville court in November 1999 after Cedar Bay Generating Co., an independent power producer, filed suit for underpayment on a contract. Mrs. Dyer and David Boies, the firm's senior partner, are listed as the lawyers for the power company. Boies, an antitrust lawyer who led the U.S. Justice Department's case against Microsoft, established the firm in 1998 with offices in Washington, Orlando and New York.

Senate Republican Leader Jack Latvala said Dyer made him aware of his wife's employment with the law firm "in passing."

"I don't think her legal business had anything to do with his position," Latvala said. "In this day and age all of us have spouses with other interests. Some of them are compatible and some aren't."

Lee said he became aware of Mrs. Dyer's involvement with FPL after receiving an anonymous fax which listed her as counsel in a lawsuit.

He said Dyer never disclosed the relationship and wouldn't discuss it when he brought it up during a meeting in his office.

"It's something I certainly would have mentioned," Lee said.

In a second conversation he had with Dyer about the amendment, Lee said Dyer brought up Michelle McKay, wife of Senate Rules Chairman John McKay. Mrs. McKay is registered to lobby the House for Duke Energy.

"Senator Dyer said McKay had a conflict, and I reminded him of his conflict on the subject," Lee said.

Times researcher Kitty Bennett contributed to this report.

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