Thursday, October 08, 2009

Florida Governor Shakes Up PSC After Ex Parte Communications via Blackberry Text Messaging

News of ex parte contacts between utility executives and Florida Public Service Commission members has led to change. See Public Service Commission halts own BlackBerry texting -
Regulators halted the use of text messaging on their own phones as their relationship with utilities continues to come under fire
, Miami Herald, Sept. 9, 2009. According to the Miami Herald,
Public Service Commission Chairman Matthew Carter Wednesday ordered his agency to disable all text messaging on state-issued Blackberrys as questions continued about whether PSC staff used the devices to skirt public records laws.
In addition,
[T]he Florida Department of Law Enforcement has been investigating the PSC for what some say are potential ethics allegations; a state senator has called for reforms; three staff members were asked to resign or placed on administrative leave for giving their private messaging codes to FPL, and the PSC's lobbyist resigned under fire for partying at the home of an FPL executive while overseeing the company's pipeline request.

*** *The 1992 grand jury didn't find anything criminal, but reached one important conclusion: Any communication between a regulated utility and a commissioner or staff member of the PSC should be open.

The report even recommended that verbal conversations between staff and utilities be written down, and any other communication should be banned. Violators should be fined, the report said.

``It is not unreasonable to require PSC employees to prepare and maintain a written summary of regulatory communications with regulated utilities,'' the report said, noting that such recording was ``a regular business practice in the modern world.''
Troubled PSC ignored past reforms -- A shelved grand jury report from 1992 recommended ways to curb criticisms now facing state utility regulators, Miami Herald, Sept. 13, 2009. Subsequently, Florida Governor Charlie Crist did not renominate the PSC Chairman and another Commission member to new terms. See Gov. Crist Ousts Two Public Service Commission Members, Miami Herald, Oct. 2, 2009, and appointed two new members. See Governor names newcomers to Public Service Commission, Miami Herald, Oct. 1, 2009.

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