But what they really need is a moral compass!
Regulators hire lawyer to serve as ‘ethics officer’
Ryan Randazzo, The Republic | azcentral.com 2:34 p.m. MST December 28, 2015
(Photo: Tom Tingle/The Republic)
- Arizona regulators hired an attorney to serve as an ethics officer.
The Arizona Corporation Commission announced Monday the hiring of an attorney to serve as an “ethics officer,” helping the embattled agency deal with conflicts of interest and other matters, such as complying with public records laws.
The hiring comes on the heels of Chairwoman Susan Bitter Smith’s resignation amid a conflict-of-interest investigation and other regulators facing scrutiny, mostly tied to the ongoing debate over rooftop solar panel subsidies.
The commission hired Christopher Kempley, an attorney adviser for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. He is a former chief counsel for the commission from 2002 to 2008 and assistant chief counsel from 1985 to 2002.
Christopher Kempley (Photo: Provided by the Corporation Commission)
In his new job, which will pay $130,000 annually, Kempley will serve as special counsel to the commission, an executive job that reports to director Jodi Jerich.
Kempley also will assist the five statewide regulators as they address broad public policy debates, according to the announcement.
Kempley is a member of the State Bar of Arizona, and practiced before the Federal District Court for the District of Arizona, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court.
The commission rarely deals with many public records requests but had to hire outside legal assistance earlier this year amid a flurry of records requests from the media and a clean-energy group known as the Checks and Balances Project. [Actually, they would not have “had to hire outside legal assistance” if they’d just turned over the public records in Stump’s phone. Instead they hired “outside legal assistance” to try to stonewall.]
The commission reports it has spent more than $50,000 on outside legal assistance this year.
Checks and Balances has complained that many records requests have gone unanswered and continues to await the release of text messages deleted from former chairman Bob Stump’s phone. The messages were extracted after the state Attorney General got involved, and a former judge is reviewing them.
“This new position will reduce the commission’s need for outside legal counsel,” Jerich said. “It will relieve our current legal staff of duties they have been forced to undertake that are outside their core duties.”
Kempley’s hiring came with the endorsements of former commissioners Marc Spitzer and Jeff Hatch-Miller, as well as current commissioner Doug Little.
“His experience will be an asset to all of us as we move forward with the important and often complex issues that come before the commission,” Little said in a prepared statement.