Outgoing PSC commissioner raises concerns about agency

Former Florida Public Service Commissioner Nathan Skop said Monday that the public should be concerned about the agency’s ability to be fair and impartial now that he and other reform-minded commissioners have been ousted.

Skop’s final day in office was Jan. 1. He and then-PSC Chairwoman Nancy Argenziano were ousted in June when the PSC Nominating Council voted not to interview them for reappointment to their seats. Julie Brown and Eduardo E. Balbis were appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist to those seats.

Meanwhile, Florida Power & Light Co. on Monday filed a motion to voluntarily dismiss a lawsuit asking to have Skop removed from the utility’s cases before the PSC because the lawsuit is now moot. FPL had said Skop, a former employee of the utility’s parent company, blamed FPL for not being reappointed.

In an interview Monday before the motion was filed, Skop said he could not comment on the case because it was still pending. He later sent an e-mail in which he commended the utility for taking “the appropriate action to end the litigation.”

Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton and chairman of the PSC Nominating Council, said last summer that the panel wanted to “clean house” because of infighting at the PSC. But Skop said Monday efforts to oust four reform-minded commissioners were completed with his departure from the agency.

In his last meeting on Dec. 14, Skop objected to debate being limited on a request by Skyland Utilities to delay action on a rate case. He also complained that his departing remarks were scheduled for the end of the agenda conference rather than at the beginning when a larger audience was present.

On Monday, Skop said the public should be concerned now about the direction of the agency as reflected by his last meeting on the commission.

“I’m the last man standing of the four that were purged,” he said.

He continued, “I think anyone who is watching [the PSC] can draw conclusions that the intent is to not have a fair commission. If that were the case what would be the need to get rid of four commissioners?”

PSC Chairman Art Graham said in response Monday that he gave Skop ample opportunity to speak on the Skyland Utilities case before the commission limited further debate. Graham also said he thought it was “weird” to have departing comments at the beginning of the meeting rather than at the end.

And Graham said he didn’t know why the PSC Nominating Council decided not to interview Skop. He said Skop comes across as a “conspiracy theorist.”

“He’s been making comments along those lines since he wasn’t granted an interview,” Graham said. “I don’t think any of that stuff is new. That is his opinion.”

In the interview, Skop said he plans to practice law and is considering seeking an elected office in 2012 but has not decided what he would run for. He also said he would support a constitutional amendment to establish the PSC as judicial branch agency with its members appointed by a judicial nominating commission. He said that would protect the PSC from political influence by the Legislature.

“There needs to be a fundamental change there,” Skop said.

(Story provided by the Florida Tribune. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and FloridaEnvironments.com. Do not copy or redistribute without permission, which can be obtained by contacting brucebritchie@gmail.com.)