Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

Indiana House speaker wants corruption probe of IURC

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — Indiana Statehouse Democrats say they want to stop the revolving door between utilities and state government by having more investigations and wholesale restructuring amid an ethics flap in the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.

House Speaker Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, and other Democrats in the House and Senate said they want investigations done by prosecutors and want to change the structure of the state ethics committee and the regulatory commission.

After learning a commission attorney discussed a job with Duke Energy while presiding over matters involving a $2.9 billion Duke Energy coal-gasification plant in southwestern Indiana, Daniels fired the commission’s chairman and ordered it to reopen opinions on the project.

Bauer and Democrat Rep. Win Moses of Fort Wayne met with reporters Thursday and said the firing should be the beginning of changes, not the end. “This calls for greater enforcement of the whole ethics structure,” Bauer said in Fort Wayne. Moses noted the governor appoints the members of the regulatory commission, ethics commission and inspector general.

Other Democrats are calling for similar action. State Sen. Bob Deig, D-Mount Vernon, said that federal prosecutors should investigate to see whether taxpayers and ratepayers had their interests protected.

State Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, said he’s drafting legislation requiring the Senate and House to approve nominees to the utility regulatory commission instead of having the governor simply name commission members.

Daniels said his administration has cracked down on the revolving door between regulators and industry, and said he doesn’t think what happened is indicative of a systematic problem. He said changing the way members are selected to the regulatory commission would have no bearing on the controversy.

“It wouldn’t have prevented this. This is bad judgment on two people’s parts,” Daniels said. “This is not about any other commissioner.”

Daniels fired utility regulatory commission Chairman David Lott Hardy on Tuesday. The Daniels administration says Hardy knew commission attorney and administrative law judge Scott Storms discussed a job with Duke Energy Corp. while presiding over hearings concerning the utility.

Storms left the regulatory commission last month for a new position in Duke’s regulatory division, and the Indiana Ethics Commission cleared him to do so under certain limitations.

The hiring prompted criticism from watchdog groups since Storms had handled matters related to a $2.9 billion coal-gasification plant the utility is building in southwestern Indiana. Its construction costs are nearly double the original 2007 estimate.

Duke has placed Storms on administrative leave with pay pending a review by outside counsel. Also placed on leave pending the review was Mike Reed, who became president of Duke Energy-Indiana in June, about 16 months after leaving the regulatory commission as its executive director.

Tim Morrison, the first assistant U.S. attorney in Indianapolis, said Thursday he didn’t know of any formal request for an investigation having yet been made to the office.



Posted 10/8/2010




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