Lea Marquez Peterson Calls for Independent Outside Investigation of ACC Decisions Surrounding Death of APS Customer
For Immediate Release | 7-01-19
Media Contact |Daniel Schwiebert
PHOENIX — Arizona Corporation Commission Commissioner Lea Marquez Peterson filed a letter Friday calling for a full outside investigation of the Arizona Corporation Commission and the internal decisions and circumstances surrounding and leading up to the death of Stephanie Pullman, emphasizing a need that the investigation be conducted by an independent outside agency or contractor, not by the Commission itself.
“For too long, the integrity and transparency of this Commission has been questioned and discounted by the public. This is understandable, especially when it is the media, rather than our own Staff, who have uncovered and informed the Commission of these issues and have been the catalyst for Commissioners considering meaningful change. This is simply unacceptable, and we must work to change the culture here and restore public trust,” wrote Commissioner Lea Marquez Peterson in her letter.
On June 25, 2019, internal Staff for the Arizona Corporation Commission released initial findings of an investigation requested by Commissioner Justin Olson and supported by Commissioner Marquez Peterson. Commenting on that report, Commissioner Peterson said, “While Staff’s report reflects only a preliminary investigation, it may leave the public with a host of additional questions regarding how the investigation was administered, what the investigation uncovered, and what additional questions could have been asked to provide further clarity.” Commissioner Peterson listed several sets of questions she felt the public may have as a result of reading Staff’s report or questioning the methodology used to reach its findings, including:
- Who oversaw the investigation process generally and who had final decision-making rights on substantive and stylistic content of the report?
- Which members of staff conducted the fact-finding portion of the investigation?
- Who was interviewed and what questions were asked during the interview process?
- What phone recordings, voicemails, email records, or other internal or external correspondence were requested for review as part of the fact-finding portion of the investigation? And,
- What steps were taken to identify and mitigate any potential conflicts of interest in this investigation?
“Knowing how the investigation was conducted and how members of Staff who were involved in the 2016 APS rate case were separated from the process would have been helpful to promote transparency and assure the public that the potential for any conflicts of interest to occur was proactively considered and avoided,” said Peterson.
“I felt a claim could be made that a rate increase from the last APS rate case could’ve led to Ms. Pullman’s inability to pay her bills, as well as higher levels of disconnections in general. Therefore, having members of Staff who were a party to that rate case performing an investigation into this incident could be seen as a conflict of interest,” wrote Peterson. On June 14, 2019, Commissioner Peterson docketed a letter asking that, “To maintain the utmost independence and integrity of this investigation...any internal Commission Staff who worked on the 2016 APS rate case be separated from the decision-making process and not be involved in the fact-finding portion of the investigation.”
Echoing the concerns of citizens and the media, Commissioner Lea Marquez Peterson agreed that “A preliminary investigation of staff, by staff, with a limited scope - like the one released - does not go far enough to provide satisfactory answers and prevent potential conflicts of interest.” Commissioner Peterson has asked that a full-scale investigation to be conducted by an outside agency or third-party contractor and that the Chairman put the item on the agenda for the Commission’s Open Meeting on July 10 and 11, 2019.
Link to Commissioner Lea Marquez Peterson’s letter: https://docket.images.azcc.gov/0000198818.pdf