Suspended utility reg panel aides back on the jobby Dara Kam | October 19th, 2009
Two utility regulators’ aides are back on the job after being suspended with pay during investigations into BlackBerry messages exchanged with utility representatives.
Public Service Commission Chairman Matthew Carter reinstated aide William Garner on Oct. 5 and Commissioner Lisa Edgar put aide Roberta Bass back to work on Oct. 12.
The aides will be on the job when the PSC continues a hearing on Florida Power & Light Co.’s $1.3 billion rate hike request on Wednesday.
The commissioners suspended the aides pending the outcome of investigations into possible open government violations concerning messages and texts between PSC staff and the utilities they regulate.
Leon County State Attorney Willie Meggs said last week that his investigation has essentially dried up after finding no criminal wrongdoing at the agency. As of last week, however, he had not formally ended the inquiry.
Public records requests for the PINs initially turned up nothing because PSC officials said they did not keep the messages like they would e-mails or faxes.
But the messages were accidentally backed up on a PSC employee’s computer and those files resulted in the retrieval of thousands of BlackBerry PINs which were later made available to the media and others.
The files show that Garner exchanged numerous messages with FPL lobbyist Jorge Chamizo in which they call each other “Blue” and “Dawg” and Garner promises to give the utility lobbyist a copy of an energy presentation before it is delivered.
Bass exchanged messages last year with Progress Energy lawyer Paul Lewis scheduling meetings to discuss nuclear power plants, the messages revealed.
Lewis messaged Bass on March 11, 2008: “Hey Sorry I missed your call. Alex glenn in town wed and thur. We wanted to stop by and visit thur after lunch on the 2 nuke cases. Maybe around 130 if u r open Paul.”
(Alex Glenn is another Progress Energy lawyer.)
Bass replied: “1:30 works for me. Come visit.”
Lewis to Bass: “Sounds good. C ya then.”