By: Howard Fischer | Capitol Media Services via Arizona Capitol Times
State utility regulators have no legal right to investigate their colleagues to determine if they are biased, a judge has ruled.
In a decision released Wednesday, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Daniel Kiley rebuffed the efforts by Bob Burns to launch a probe into whether one or more of his colleagues on the Arizona Corporation Commission acted improperly in supporting a rate increase for Arizona Public Service because the company provided financial support for their political campaigns.
Kiley, in an extensive ruling, said due process does require that there be an “unbiased adjudication of disputes.” And he said that Burns has a “commendable concern” to ensure that all involved in rate cases have their rights protected.
“However, such due process rights belong to the litigants to the dispute, not to members of the body adjudicating the dispute,” the judge wrote.
In this case, none of the parties to the rate case raised any questions of bias. In fact, all of the 29 parties, including the utility, the Residential Utility Consumer Office and a host of intervenors, all signed off on the deal to allow APS to collect an additional $7 million a month from its customers.
The judge also said he can find nothing either in the Arizona Constitution or state statutes that gives one commissioner the independent authority to investigate whether his or her colleagues should be disqualified from voting on an issue.