Corporation Commission’s “Code of Ethics” leaves public unprotected
Phoenix -- It is troubling that the Arizona Corporation Commission has become
known in recent years for well-documented ethical lapses and possible criminal
Given this history, it is delusional to think that the public will be protected by the
Commission’s adoption today of the so-called “Code of Ethics” created within the
regulatory body itself – a body whose members are clearly out of bounds when it
comes to protecting the public good over the self-interests of the utility monopolies
From the forced resignations of three Commissioners -- for lobbying activities,
conflict of interest and possible bribery -- to millions in dark money spent to elect
utility-friendly candidates, to the recent, quick approval of unjustified rate increases,
the public has reason to worry.
When we served at different times on the Commission, Commissioners were
committed to providing safe, cost-effective utility service to ratepayers through an
open and transparent process. When a Commissioner was asked to resign for
unethical behavior, but refused, the Legislature was asked to begin impeachment
proceedings – and he resigned.
What has changed?
Dark money campaign expenditures have tipped the scales in favor of utility
interests over public interests. The new game is “Pay-to-Play.”
Maintaining “order and decorum” and “human dignity,” as stated in the new “Code
of Ethics,” isn’t enough. If the current Commissioners were serious about avoiding
conflicts of interest, they would ask the Legislature to reinstate the former conflict
of interest law that was weakened, so a sitting Commissioner could remain on the
Commission. Additionally, they would require all Commissioners make their official
calendars available to the public, and they would strengthen the ex parte rule so it is
fairer to customers and other stakeholders.
It is disturbing that the new “Code” allows utilities to buy “food, refreshments, or
other items” for Commissioners as long as the utilities don’t have “pending matters
before the Commission,” or the “purpose of the transaction is not, or does not
appear to be, designed to influence official action.” This unseemly practice should be
strictly prohibited at all times, not just when a matter is pending. Otherwise, this
remains an ethical loophole of enormous consequence.
Until Commissioners agree to prohibit contributions in any form from anyone who
appears at any time in front of the Commission for regulatory reasons, and gives an
outside agency enforcement authority, today’s “Code of Ethics” is just another
version of the old story about the fox guarding the hen house.
Arizonans deserve better.
Paid for by Mundell for Arizona Authorized by William “Bill” Mundell
Paid for by Kennedy 2018 Authorized by Sandra Kennedy
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Bill Mundell (480) 734-6125
Sandra Kennedy (602) 881-7778