Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Monday, November 30, 2015

Susan Bitter Smith won't go down without a fight!

At ten o'clock this morning, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced that he had filed a Special Action in the state Supreme Court seeking removal of Susan Bitter Smith*, currently chair of the Arizona Corporation Commission, from office as a result of longstanding conflicts of interest.

Chandler attorney and longtime citizen activist Tom Ryan, in early September, on his own behalf, submitted a complaint to Brnovich's office with documentation of an extensive investigation Ryan conducted to demonstrate the willfully brazen disregard Bitter Smith has shown for Arizona law.

Arizona Revised Statutes § 40-101 is clear in its applicability to this situation. Case law developed when Tony West was removed from office a decade and a half ago further emphasizes the clear cut and emphatic nature of the statute to protect Arizona citizens and ratepayers.

Rather than recount today's press conference (I wasn't there anyway), here are links to coverage by Stephen LemonsRyan Randazzo, and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez. The Yellow Sheet Report also had three pages on the Bitter Smith situation.

Notable, however, former House Republican spokesman and former ACC paid spin doctor Barrett Marson, at barely a minute after 10 am, took to Twitter to mischaracterize the situation as the solar industry attacking its best supporter.
He then proceeded to quibble about the difference between "pushing" and mentioning it to an interested reporter (Kristena Hansen). From Hansen's August 24 story,
Checks and Balances raised conflict questions about Bitter Smith to KJZZ, which then conducted independent research and reporting that included a review of various public documents, tax records and interviews with Bitter Smith, former commissioners, a former attorney general and various ethics and Constitutional law experts and attorneys.
Responding to Marson, current House Spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham tweeted,
Bitter Smith's characterization in the closed to the press speech she gave earlier this month at the AZ Energy at the Crossroads conference, said she was being harassed. Grisham (speaking for Speaker David Gowan) calls it #BullyJournalism.

Accountability is a bitch, isn't it ladies (Bitter Smith and Grisham)?

Anyway, in response to today's developments Checks and Balances Project, Scott Peterson, wondering about what C&BP really wants Brnovich to do, said this,

"Brnovich the defender of ethics in government showed up today — and that’s a good thing for Arizonans who're tired of commission corruption. But there hasn’t been sighting of ethics-focused Mark Brnovich for months when it comes to Bob Stump’s conduct and other cases of potential corruption on the commission.

"The AG himself said it’s 'important that we have regulators who are beyond reproach and who can be fair and impartial.'

"When you become Attorney General with substantial help by APS, it’s one thing to go after a commissioner who has opposed APS. The real test of your ethical compass will be to apply the standards and energy to commissioners APS helped install on the commission."

On another note, well maybe it's the same note, Lee Poole, the whistleblower in the Tony West case at the turn of the century, had this to say reflecting on Bitter Smith's dilemma,
I guess she intends to fight it at the Sup. Ct., which is not surprising (I say that "legally", not "personally")--but I suspect her argument will be a tough sell. The fundamental questions were already asked & answered in Jennings v. Woods/West, and by entertaining a re-visitation of those issues, or by inviting SBS' attorneys to essentially parse the otherwise crystal clear language and intent of that decision, the Ct. would essentially be inviting future messes for itself.
Like, what degree of "employment" triggers the law's application; what degree of "regulation" triggers it, etc. Why go down that road, when the "right" road was already pretty frickin' crystal clear?
I'm kinda wonderin' what the "back story" might be on her original decision to wear two hats at once; did she invite commentary from her attys in advance (and did they tell her what she wanted to hear, instead of what she needed to hear...), or did she plow ahead on her own w/out any advice in advance? If she loses (which seems likely), does she file a claim w/her attys. for malpractice?
The bottom line, as I see it, is that in today's Post Truth media environment, hacks like Marson and Grisham validate the gross corruption that has Arizona labeled as the most corrupt state in the country.

Brnovich today took one step in the right direction. He's got a long way to go to prove himself, however.

*  Two pdf files with upwards of 850 pages of exhibits attached to Brnovich's petition today are also available for review.

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