PHOENIX — Citing the indictment of one of its former members, state utility regulators voted Tuesday to review a policy allowing utility company owners to pass along some of their personal income tax burden to customers.
But it remains unlikely that anyone will get a refund, even if the policy is overturned.
Separately, the Arizona Corporation Commission voted to take a closer look at everything from the management of Johnson Utilities to the rates they charge their water and sewer customers. Whether that results in changes will depend on what an outside consultant finds.
Both votes follow the indictment of Gary Pierce who was chair of the commission and was instrumental in getting both the policy on taxes changed and in having the panel approve overall higher rates.
Pierce is charged with accepting bribes through money paid by company manager George H. Johnson to Pierce’s wife, Sherry. That $31,500, according to federal prosecutors, was funneled to the couple through lobbyist Jim Norton by was of an unidentified — and unindicted — co-conspirator.
All four pleaded innocent last week. A trial is tentatively set in federal court for Aug. 1.
“I’m sick to my stomach over this whole thing,” said commission Chairman Tom Forese during a break in the first commission meeting since the four appeared in court.
“It is up to the courts to decide guilt,” he continued. “But that this could have possibly happened in this place is really, really troubling.”
Commissioner Andy Tobin said the damage to the regulatory board’s reputation is “severe.”
“I think you repair it by opening up as much as you possibly…
click here to read more.