State Sen. Daphne Campbell wants her constituents to know that she had something to do with them getting power back on in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
Florida Power & Light wants those same customers to know something else about Campbell’s claim: “She is mistaken. This is absurd.”
According to text messages obtained by RiseNews, an online publication in Miami, Campbell not only tried to use her contacts with FPL lobbyist John Holley to get power restored to her district, but also sought special treatment for her family.
Rich Robinson, a reporter for RiseNews.net, obtained photos that show Campbell texted Holley a series of messages beginning at 1:55 p.m. Monday, with the addresses of her mother, children and sister and asking him to restore power. Her mother relies on oxygen, and if she had registered with the utility, she would have been eligible to receive priority treatment if possible.
Two minutes later, Holley responded: “Let me see what we can do. It’s ugly out there. How are you doing?”
Robinson met up with Campbell, a Democrat, at a “Massage and Pizza Party Post Irma,” in her Miami Shores district on Saturday. The event was sponsored by Campbell and the Church of Scientology Youth Task Force. In a video interview with Robinson as music played in the background, Campbell said her texts with Holley produced results.
“Let me tell something. This man is phenomenal. He is awesome. He’s great,” Campbell said. “As soon as I text him an address, you got the light.”
The RiseNews story was written under the banner “Public Corruption” and with the headline: “Florida State Senator Daphne Campbell tried to use her connection to a Florida Power & Light (FPL) lobbyist to turn on power for members of her family.”
Campbell, who could not be reached for comment, said in a Facebook post on Sunday that Robinson had “taken my phone” during the event and copied her text messages and said the report was unfair.
“I did not expect that anyone would come to a ‘feeding the community’ event, in order to sneak away my phone to steal information from the text messages I use to help my people,” she wrote. She made no reference to the video interview.
The RiseNews reports that the Monday text exchange also included a conversation about the conditions in Campbell’s district and the lack of Creole language in FPL’s outreach efforts before Campbell asked again.
“Thank you very much but my sister one [sic] still not on yet. Million thanks. My sick mom thanked you too,” Campbell wrote late Monday.
Holley responded nine minutes later: “Working on it.”
Florida Power & Light spokesperson Mark Bubriski acknowledged the text exchange occurred but offered a different context than the one Campbell offered.
Employees that work with “stakeholders,” such as legislators, local elected officials, large churches, large businesses, medical facilities, etc., have a protocol to follow to put information into their internal system when they get requests from customers, and “it’s up to ‘power delivery’ to decide and prioritize,” he said.
“Inputting the address of somebody's home would not get them priority unless it was appropriate,’’ Bubriski said. “The types of things that an ‘employee liaison’ would put in that could be deemed appropriate priorities by customer service or power delivery would be downed power lines and other potential safety issues or outages affecting large groups of people such as a school, shelter or nursing home.”
If Campbell’s mother, who uses oxygen, had qualified to be on the “medically essential service program,” Holley could have posted that information into the system, he said.
Holley and other “community liaisons” are allowed to post individual addresses into the system, “but that does not mean the customer would get priority” Bubriski said. If they don’t qualify for one of the specific reasons, “the outage would be handled just as if the customer had reported it via FPL.com or 1-800-4OUTAGE,’’ he said.
However, Holley “did not take any action, certainly no action that resulted in her getting power back on,” he said. “We had 4.4 million customer outages. I don’t know if it would have been possible to give her priority.”
But FPL, which invests millions each year attempting to influence legislative elections and hires dozens of lobbyists to shape legislation that could benefit the company, was not prepared to let Campbell claim that her position as a legislator gave her more access than others.
“She did not get special treatment,” Bubriski said. “It’s just absurd.”
Campbell said in her Facebook post Sunday that her children still had not received power back as of Sunday, and her mother’s electricity was not restored until Friday.
“It is a shame for someone to be so cruel by victimizing someone like me during such a difficult post disastrous time like this,” Campbell wrote, adding that she worked “around the clock” responding to “numerous calls and text messages regarding the power outage.”
“Most of my calls and texts [were] to a FPL Representative pertaining to rectifying my constituents’ power outage.”