Hearing Set Between Duke Energy and Civil Rights Museum that Can’t Seem to Pay Bills on Time

The North Carolina Utilities Commission has scheduled a hearing in Greensboro this summer to settle a bitter, “credit deposit” dispute between Duke Energy and leaders of the International Civil Rights Center & Museum.

Commission Chairman Edward Finley Jr. ordered the two sides to present their cases Aug. 3 before the seven-member, regulatory panel at the Guilford County Courthouse in courtroom 3B.

The nonprofit corporation that runs the museum, Sit-In Movement Inc., and Duke Energy differ over the utility’s demand that because of its spotty payment record, the museum should pay $3,000 extra on monthly power bills until it builds up a cushion of $18,224 against the possibility of future lapses in payment.

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Museum officials contend the utility is treating them in a prejudicial manner that allegedly has included supplying the Utilities Commission with “misleading” information about the Greensboro institution’s payment record and not acknowledging Sit-In Movement’s diligent efforts to repay previous past-due amounts.

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Duke Energy responded that it would make similar, credit-deposit demands of any customer that, like the museum, had past-due balances dating to 2009 with 23 “delinquency suspensions” between late 2012 and early this year, when matters came to a head.

The dispute began after the Charlotte-based utility shut off power to the museum for several hours on the morning of Feb. 16, during Black History Month, because Duke officials said that the Greensboro facility missed a 5 p.m. payment deadline the day before.

Duke Energy and the museum have been trading petitions since April, when leaders of the South Elm Street facility filed their initial complaint with the Raleigh-based commission. They’re seeking a ruling that the utility “abused its discretion” in demanding the credit deposit.

Museum chief executive John Swaine formally asked for the public hearing in a filing with the Utilities Commission last week, “if Duke Energy does not rescind its demand for a deposit, which required deposit is not in compliance with the law.”

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