Court Roundup

Georgia: Utility head indicted on racketeering charges
ATLANTA (AP) — A grand jury on Thursday indicted the president of a Cobb County electric utility on charges of racketeering, making false statements and the theft of millions of dollars from customers, prosecutors said.

Cobb EMC President Dwight Brown denied taking any money illegally, said his defense attorney, Craig Gillen. It was not immediately clear when Brown would have to appear in court to answer the 31 criminal counts in the indictment.

“The simple truth is not a single dollar went to Dwight Brown that was not lawful and was not authorized by the board of directors,” Gillen said.

The indictment brought to a head a long-running investigation into the Marietta-based electric utility.

Cobb EMC became tangled in a legal battle over its relationship with the for-profit Cobb Energy, which was mostly owned and controlled by insiders from the electric cooperative. Brown led both companies for a time, and customers had accused utility leaders of taking money belonging to the co-op.

“We still have an open case, and there are still individuals who we will look at,” Cobb District Attorney Pat Head told reporters.

Officials at Cobb EMC would not discuss whether Brown will continue to lead an electric utility that serves roughly 192,000 members in the north Atlanta suburbs.

The utility’s board of directors said in a statement that it was surprised by the indictment. The board said it thoroughly investigated the allegations for almost two years and concluded that Brown committed no crimes.

“The indictment would appear to be nothing more than a restatement of the allegations made in a civil lawsuit that arose out of transactions involving Cobb Energy, many of which occurred over a decade ago, and which was settled over two years ago with the approval of the Cobb County Superior Court,” it said in the statement.

The utility’s legal trouble began when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the for-profit Cobb Energy effectively ran the nonprofit cooperative and charged fees for work that the utility previously did itself. That arrangement prompted a lawsuit against the utility, which was settled in late 2008.

The following year, local and state authorities conducting an investigation searched the utility’s offices and the homes of its CEO and board members.