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Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Ind. Gov't. - "IURC lawyer asks for relaxed ethics rules"

John Russell of the Indianapolis Star reports today:

In a case that raises questions about the revolving door between Indiana utilities and state regulators, an attorney with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission is seeking permission to take a job with a large water utility without a required one-year cooling-off period.

Gregory R. Ellis, who works as an administrative law judge for the IURC, is asking the state ethics commission whether he can accept a job as director of government affairs with Indiana American Water Company.

The company, based in Greenwood, is currently seeking approval from the IURC to raise rates 9.8 percent on its 290,000 customers, a rate hike that’s opposed by the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor. Ellis was not involved in that case, an agency spokeswoman said.

Ellis said he has only been involved in two Indiana American cases during his employment with the IURC. He has worked as an administrative law judge since 2010.

In seeking the job, Ellis is challenging a policy set down in the wake of an ethics uproar involving the agency’s top lawyer, Scott Storms, who was reprimanded by the Supreme Court and fined, after he took a job with Duke Energy Corp. in September 2010.

Within weeks of taking the job, Storms was found to have been interviewing with Duke while participating in a case over whether the utility could charge ratepayers for hundreds of millions of dollars in cost overruns at its Edwardsport power plant. * * *

James Atterholt, who succeeded Hardy as IURC chairman, decreed that administrative law judges are “decision makers” under state law, and as such, are prohibited from taking a job with a regulated utility for one year after leaving IURC employment.

Administrative law judges conduct hearings and take evidence from utilities and other parties in rate cases. They play a pivotal role in deciding what evidence to admit in cases decided by the agency’s five voting commissioners. * * *

Ellis wrote he has been talking since March about a job with Indiana American and its parent, American Water Works, based in Vorhees, N.J.

ILB: Perhaps the policy should prohibit IURC decision making employees from interviewing with companies the agency regulates, rather than simply prohibiting them from taking jobs with such agencies within a year after leaving?

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 6, 2014 09:27 AM
Posted to Indiana Government