State utility regulators on Thursday fined an electric generation supplier $52,700 for failing to conduct criminal background checks on its door-to-door sales people after Bensalem police in 2017 charged a salesman with rape.
Henneghan was employed by Platinum Advertising, a Langhorne company, to induce electricity customers to switch to Vista. Vista, as the licensed energy supplier, is ultimately responsible for the actions of its employees and contractors, the PUC said.
But Vista Energy had allowed Henneghan and 123 other sales people to hit the streets without having completed criminal background checks, as required. Such a background check would have shown that Henneghan had a criminal history dating to 2013, including a charge of aggravated assault. One other salesperson was later found to have a criminal history.
Platinum initially told PUC investigators that it gave Henneghan an ID because of a “clerical error” and terminated his employment several weeks later, in April, after conducting an audit.
But the investigators found that Vista, at Platinum’s request, had agreed to allow some door-to-door marketers, including Henneghan, to be conditionally approved while their background checks were incomplete. Vista told Platinum in April it would no longer conditionally approve any more agents without completed background checks. Henneghan made 109 sales attempts before he was let go, and enrolled 40 residential customers.
Platinum claimed that Henneghan reapplied as an independent contractor at another office under an assumed name and again began selling Vista electric generation services from May until August of 2017, according to the PUC filing. After his arrest in August, Platinum fired Henneghan. Vista terminated its contract with Platinum.
The PUC staff negotiated a $37,500 settlement with Vista, saying the energy marketing company had cooperated with investigators. But Gladys M. Brown, the PUC’s chair, on Thursday said the fine was insufficient and proposed increasing it to $52,700. Her motion passed unanimously.
“It is imperative to establish a penalty which will deter future violations from this company, and send a proper signal to the commonwealth’s marketplace on the severity of violations of this nature,” she said.