Crist fills two Florida Public Service Commission seats to be vacated by ouster

Gov. Charlie Crist again passed over a state senator and a former Florida Public Service executive director and instead named Eduardo Balbis and Julie I. Brown to the Public Service Commission on Tuesday.

Balbis, 38, is an assistant city attorney in West Palm Beach, and Brown, 35, is associate legal counsel for the First American Corp. They will replace Commission Chairman Nancy Argenziano and Commissioner Nathan A. Skop when their terms expire in January.

Argenziano and Skop were effectively ousted in June when the PSC Nominating Council chose not to include them among the 18 candidates that were being interviewed for their seats. Argenziano and Skop blamed the influence of utilities over the Legislature but Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton and chairman of the PSC Nominating Council, said there was a desire to “clean house” because of infighting among PSC members.

In choosing Balbis and Brown, Crist passed over Sen. Lee Constantine, R-Altamonte Springs and former PSC Executive Director Mary Bane. Both names were offered by the council to Crist for the Klement and Stevens seats that the governor filled in July with Art Graham and Rep. Ron Brisé.

Crist said in a statement that Balbis’ duties overseeing municipalities and public works in West Palm Beach for the past three years “have already given him the opportunity to demonstrate his commitment to protecting consumers.”

And the governor said Brown had shown that she understands the “fairness and judgement” that must be exercised by PSC members.

“Her past experience ensuring real estate agreements comply with all regulations, as well as reviewing proposed changes to historic properties as a member of a zoning board, have provided her valuable insight into the needs of Florida consumers,” he said.

The next governor could replace the four appointees before they are confirmed by the Senate as Crist did when he took office in 2007. Or they could face the same tough Senate fight that led to Klement and Stevens being ousted.

Bennett said Tuesday he doesn’t think that will happen or that the Crist appointees will face any confirmation difficulties.

“I have to tell you the list of people we interviewed this time, practically the entire slate, was probably the best qualified slate of people I have ever seen for the PSC,” Bennett said. “There were some tough choices, very tough choices.”