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FPL's Feud With Former Executive Jeffrey Bartel Costs Him Seat At Mayor's Ball

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Did Jeffrey Bartel's vicious public beef with his former employer, Florida Power & Light, cost him a seat on the host committee for the 14th Annual Mayor's Ball this Saturday? Sources tell Banana Republican Bartel was thrown off the illustrious gala's board about a week ago when FPL representatives voiced their displeasure to real estate developer and committee chairman Jeff Berkowitz. Manny J. Rodriguez, who recently retired as FPL's MIami-Dade regional director, is also on the committee.

"Some FPL folks were upset that he got put on the ball's host committee alongside Rodriguez," says one of the sources.

In February, FPL's parent company NextEra Energy sued its ex-top executive -- who was allegedly caught anonymously accusing company officials of fraud -- for the amount of his severance package, which is more than $846,000. NextEra's lawsuit claims Bartel breached a non-disparagement clause in his severance agreement and misrepresented himself to induce the company to offer him a severance agreement. At the time, Bartel's lawyer told the Miami Herald his client plans on giving back the severance money anyway so he can be free from the gag order.

Bartel did not return three messages left on his cellphone requesting comment. However, Berkowitz says FPL had nothing to do with Bartel no longer being on the host committee. "He resigned because he had other commitments," Berkowitz says. "End of story."

Spokespeople for FPL and the United Way of Miami-Dade, which recieves all the donations from the Mayor's Ball and organizes it, declined comment. Last year, the ball raised $550,000 for the charity.

Bartel's war with FPL and NextEra dates back to 2010 and 2011, when the company received several anonymous letters claiming top officers had committed fraud and other improprieties. President and CEO Jim Robo, in a letter submitted as part of the lawsuit, wrote that multiple investigations, including one by an outside law firm, found all of the claims to be false.

A fourth letter, sent from a Kinko's store on Dec. 8, 2011, accused NextEra's senior officers of fraudulent and illegal conduct, according to the lawsuit. Robo claimed the company discovered the letter had been sent by Bartel, who served as FPL vice president for compliance and corporate responsibility. (He was laid off in 2011 when the company restructured).

Robo's letter said Bartel admitted to an arbitration board that he had written the letter. The lawsuit said the letter went to several news organizations as well. The Herald also reported that Bartel's lawyer, Ervin Gonzalez, confirmed his client admitted sending the fourth anonymous letter.

According to the Herald, Gonzalez said Bartel, who lives in Coral Gables, stands by his claims of wrongdoing at FPL, adding that his client refused to give the names of other employees who sent disparaging letters.

Today Bartel is managing director of Hamptons Group, a real estate and financial services consulting company. Last year he was named to the board of the United Way's executive committee as co-chairman of public policy. That led to his appointment to the Mayor's Ball host committee.

Follow Francisco Alvarado on Twitter: @thefrankness.

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