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Senate committee grills PSC appointees as governor watches

by Dara Kam | April 14th, 2010
Gov. Charlie Crist waits to ask a state Senate panel to approve his appointees to the Public Service Commission. Michael C. Bender/The Palm Beach Post

Gov. Charlie Crist waits to ask a state Senate panel to approve his appointees to the Public Service Commission. Michael C. Bender/The Palm Beach Post

Gov. Charlie Crist cooled his heels for more than an hour as the Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee grilled his two Public Service Commission appointees, Steve Stevens and David Klement, but left before the committee took a final vote.

Crist left shortly before 11 a.m. (Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp took his place) to attend a bill signing after being kept on ice by committee chairman Alex Diaz de la Portilla who took up two other bills before getting to the appointment confirmations.

The full Senate must approve the appointments once the committee signs off on them, if they do.

“Both of these men are men of great integrity,” Crist told the committee before the interrogations began. “That’s why I chose to appoint them from the pool that was given to me from you. I believe the Public Service Commission is a great panel. It can do very good work., and I know that these two men are dedicated to doing this. That’s all I wanted to say.”

But that wasn’t enough for Sen. Chris Smith, a black Democrat from Ft. Lauderdale who has raised concern in the past about the lack of diversity on the panel.

Smith asked Crist a series of questions about why he did not reappoint Matt Carter, the former PSC chairman who was the only black member of the panel.

“I felt that we needed some new blood,” Crist repeated several times without elaborating.

Diaz de la Portilla nixed the questions, chastising Smith that the meeting was not a press conference.

Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, eased the tension by asking Crist, “So this would not be a forum to talk about Senate Bill 6, would it?”

“Nice to be on a different issue for a change,” Crist said about the controversial teacher pay bill.

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