PSC nominee left standing at podium unconfirmed

PSC Commissioner David E. Klement

A Senate committee adjourned its meeting Tuesday before voting on two of Gov. Charlie Crist’s nominees to the Florida Public Service Commission.

The decision left the fates of two appointees in limbo although Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, said that there would be another chance to decide whether to confirm David E. Klement and Ben A. “Steve” Stevens III.

Atwater said he did not “personally” see any reason to disqualify the two nominees.

But that opinion was not shared with other GOP legislators. Stevens never was questioned Tuesday and Klement was left standing at the podium when the Senate Ethics and Election Committee voted to adjourn. Alexander repeatedly questioned Klement over PSC decisions that Alexander said had led to a declines in bond ratings for some state utilities. The PSC in January denied rate hike requests by Florida Power & Light Co. and Progress Energy.

Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, asked whether it was appropriate for a motion to confirm Klement. But then the committee adjourned on a motion by Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami. Fasano told Alexander that the motion was inappropriate. “You have a gentleman standing here who wants to serve the state of Florida and you rudely allow a motion to rise without a confirmation vote on the gentleman,” Fasno said.

Alexander told reporters after the meeting that that the committee ran out of time and that the committee wasn’t sending a message to Crist. “I think we need more time to consider whether these folks are qualified,” Alexander said. “I don’t particularly consider them qualified.” Alexander said they lack training and financial backgrounds, although Stevens is a licensed certified public accountant and former CFO for the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office. Klement is a former newspaper journalist from Bradenton.

Crist on Tuesday repeated that he picked Klement and Stevens from the list that was sent to him by a legislative panel. But he stood by his position that “new blood” was needed at the PSC.

Atwater said that he would call another meeting of Alexander’s committee for later this week.

(Story content provided by the Current, produced by The Florida Tribune. Photo and story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission.)