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PSC Chairman bans Blackberry PINs

by Dara Kam | September 9th, 2009

Public Service Commission Chairman Matthew Carter today banned the use of all communication or messaging by the utility regulators and their staff other than e-mail until an internal investigation is complete.

One PSC aide was fired and two others, including Carter’s, were placed on administrative leave after it was revealed that the aides gave their Blackberry personal identification numbers (PINs) to a Florida Power & Light Co. lawyer.

PINs are messages that can be exchanged between Blackberry users without creating a public record.

The communication controversy is taking place against the backdrop of two hearings that involve FPL: a proposed $1.3 billion rate hike and a proposed $63 million increase to cover the costs of nuclear power plant enhancements not yet built.

“We are all aware of the controversy which has arisen regarding use of communications technologies within the Commission.  While we are currently conducting a review of these technologies and how they relate to maintaining public records, I am directing that pending the outcome of this review the Commission should disable all communications or messaging capabilities that are not captured through our existing e-mail system,” Carter wrote to the PSC commissioners in an e-mail sent today. 
 
Commissioner Lisa Edgar, who put her aide Roberta Bass on leave after it was reported that Bass gave her own and Edgar’s PINs to an FPL exec, requested the IT review.

Carter said he believes the PSC use of the Blackberries – which allow the PINs and instant messages that also leave no paper trail – are used the way other state agencies use them.

“But we have an obligation to ensure that recordkeeping and public records requirements are clearly and consistently applied.  Upon the conclusion of our review, we will develop policies as warranted to provide necessary guidance to Commission staff,” he wrote.

The FPL rate hearing was delayed after the commission learned that its lobbyist, Ryder Rudd, had attended a Kentucky Derby party at the Palm Beach Gardens home of FPL VP Ed Tancer. An internal investigation could not prove that Rudd had broken any laws or rules. Ryder resigned yesterday.
 
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is conducting an investigation into the PSC’s relationship with the utilities it regulates. And Commissioner Nancy Argenziano, who fired her aide Larry Harris for giving out his Blackberry PIN, has asked for a grand jury investigation.

Sen. Mike Fasano also wants the Senate to hold hearings on what he suspects is the cozy relationship between the commission and its staff and the utilities.

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6 Responses to “PSC Chairman bans Blackberry PINs”

  1. Crooks Says:

    Clearly, every level of elected govt is now owned by Special Interests and operating AGAINST the best interests of the people.

    This is a PERFECT example. Why would a member of the State Commission, charged with impartially regulating FPL, give a PRIVATE PIN number to ANY attorney, much less and FPL attorney unless they were covering up something.

    This pressure-cooker of Govt against the people will blow – up one day. It seems like it simply has to.

    People will not tolerate corrupt govts, forever.

  2. frances snoot Says:

    The communication controversy is taking place against the backdrop of two hearings that involve FPL: a proposed $1.3 billion rate hike and a proposed $63 million increase to cover the costs of nuclear power plant enhancements not yet built.

    Why doesn’t someone audit the books over at the protected FPL Group? The Group spent millions on lobbying fees for the Cap and Trade passage in Washington:
    http://www.fplgroup.com/news/contents/2009/22609a.shtml

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/environment/2009-04-26-climatelobby_N.htm

    The Post makes a mockery of investigative journalism. The cap and trade is a nightmare for future electric rates: should raise rates 30% at a minimum. Add this to the rate hike of 30% proposed to pay for more lobbyists at the Senate fight over the cap and trade bill.

    Are we paying for FPL Group’s bond problems due to lobbyist fees?
    http://www.nlpc.org/stories/2009/05/22/corporate-america-sells-out-public-jumping-cap-and-trade-bandwagon

  3. sam Says:

    The Senator is crazy if he thinks having the fox guard the hen house is the right thing to do. This needs a real investigation.
    The Senate committee that he wants to investigate this is so very tied to the utilities that I would not be surprised if the utilities wanted to diffuse the heat by having their friends do the “wink” “wink” investigation.
    One Commissioner fired the aide who gave the pin number. None of the other commissioners fired their aides. One of those commissioners, Edgar, who’s aide also gave the commissioners pin, has a ethics complaint filed against her for text messaging back and forth, through her aide to a utility lobbyist at a PSC hearing, and she has still not fired her aide. She gave her a PAID leave (vacation). The other aides, one is on Paid leave also.
    Commissioner Argrenzino wants an investigation of the whole process, including the legislatures role in it and the contributions they take from the utilities. We need a real investigation. They should not get the chance to cover this up.

  4. » Blog Archive » News about politics and government in Florida | Post on Politics, a PalmBeachPost.com blog Says:

    [...] of two others on leave due to the question of ex parte communications, as well as sharing of Blackberry PINs, with utility executives of the two companies seeking the rate increases. With the possibility of [...]

  5. » Blog Archive » News about politics and government in Florida | Post on Politics, a PalmBeachPost.com blog Says:

    [...] Public Service Commissioner Katrina McMurrian offered what appears to be a simple solution to the troubled regulators and staff caught in a web of secret messages with utility company execs and lawyers. [...]

  6. » Blog Archive » Florida attorney general raises ante on public record keeping. Will the Gov. Crist and the legislature follow? Says:

    [...] issue bubbled to the surface this month when Public Service Commission Chairman Matt Carter banned his staff from e-mailing or texting with regulated [...]

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