Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Monday, March 2, 2015

Remember the AZ Corporation Commission whistleblower story from last month?

On February 20, Brahm Resnik reported,
A staffer at the Arizona Corporation Commission alleges he was offered a promotion if he kept silent about a Republican regulator's behind-the-scenes activities.
That allegation is one of several against former Commissioner Gary Pierce, who retired at the end of December, in a seven-page whistleblower letter written by a former executive assistant, who is now listed as a supervisor at the commission.
Azcentral.com links to the letter, which has the name of the whistleblower redacted.

The Arizona Eagletarian has learned that the Checks and Balances Project, a Northern Virginia based watchdog non-profit, today submitted the following public records request to Susan Bitter-Smith, the current chair of the ACC.

This could become a HUGE deal for Arizona and especially for Arizona utility ratepayers. The integrity of the Arizona Corporation Commission has been at issue at least since the regulator became a wholly-owned subsidiary of ALEC in January 2013. It's about time for some good news on that front.

Of course, before the good news we want -- restoration of the ACC to its constitutional status as an agency that serves the PEOPLE of Arizona as opposed to greedy utilities and politicians -- there's likely to be a whole helluva lot more mess and controversy that will have to be stirred up. Bob Stump's and Gary Pierce's dirty laundry is going to get aired. Very soon, I hope. Anyway, enjoy this records request. The Arizona Eagletarian will keep you posted.

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March 2, 2015

Susan Bitter Smith, Chairman
Arizona Corporation Commission
1200 West Washington, 2nd Floor
Phoenix, Arizona 85007

Dear Chairman Bitter Smith:

Under the Arizona Public Records Law § 39.101 et seq., I am requesting an opportunity to inspect or obtain copies of public records that relate to the conduct of members of the Arizona Corporation Commission reported by a whistleblower.

My name is Scott Peterson. I am the executive director of the Checks and Balances Project – a national watchdog that recently expanded its focus to include the influence of incumbent utilities on their respective regulators. As someone born and raised in Arizona, I read with particular interest the recent news coverage reporting concerns “dark money” in recent political campaigns, allegations that Arizona Public Services Company (APS) authored complaints that supposedly came from citizens about the savings rates offered by rival solar companies, and, as I mentioned, the conduct of members of the Arizona Corporation Commission reported by a whistleblower.

I understand you are you considering launching an investigation into the whistleblower’s accusations, which were reported by the Arizona Republic on February 20th. As you know, there is no independent oversight of the conduct of members of your Commission. So, the credibility of any investigation you launch depends on the impartiality of you and Executive Director Ms. Jodi Jerich, who I assume will be involved in some facilitating role in such an investigation.

To help Arizonans assess the level of credibility they can invest in any investigation you conduct, I am requesting that you disclose any and all records of communications, including but not limited to emails and meetings, that you, Policy Advisor Laurie A. Woodall, and Executive Assistant Teresa Tenbrink, had with:
  • Then CEO of Pinnacle West and Arizona Public Service Co., Don Brandt and his predecessor Don Robinson between the dates of January 1, 2013 until February 27, 2015;
  • Former Commissioner Gary Pierce between the dates of January 31st 2013 and May 1, 2013;
  • Mr. Ron Ludders between the dates of January 31st 2013 and May 1, 2013; and
  • Then Chairman Bob Stump between the dates of January 31st 2013 and May 1, 2013.

Chairman Susan Bitter Smith
March 2, 2015
Page Two

As you are aware, you ran for election during the time in which the whistleblower claims there was unethical conduct by at least one Commission member to affect elections. If those allegations are true, then it creates the appearance that you benefitted from the very conduct you are now considering investigating.

I also request that you provide records of any and all communications, including but not limited to emails and meetings, which Ms. Jerich had with:

  • Executive Assistant to Commissioner Stump Beth Soliere between August 1st 2014 and November 31st, 2014;
  • Then CEO of Pinnacle West and Arizona Public Service Co. Don Brandt and his predecessor Don Robinson between the dates of January 7, 2013, until February 27, 2015;
  • Chairman Bob Stump between the dates of August 1st, 2014, and December 31, 2015; and
  • Policy Advisor to Chairman Bob Stump Amanda Ho between August 1st 2014 and December 31, 2015.

If there are any fees for searching or copying these records, please inform me if the cost will exceed $100.  However, I would also like to request a waiver of all fees in that the disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest and will contribute significantly to the public’s understanding of the Arizona Corporation Commission. The records may be used in web posting. This information is not being sought for commercial purposes.
 
Please respond to this request in a reasonable time period.  If access to the records I am requesting will take longer, please contact me with information about when I might expect copies or the ability to inspect the requested records. If you deny any or all of this request, please cite each specific exemption you feel justifies the refusal to release the information and notify me of the appeal procedures available to me under the law.

Thank you for considering my request.
Please contact me if you have any questions.

Regards,

Scott Peterson 
Executive Director
Checks and Balances Project

703.722.6688

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