Regulators look at water utility in bribery scheme | News – Arizona News

Regulators look at water utility in bribery scheme | News – Arizona News

PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona Corporation Commission voted unanimously to review the rates, operations and finances of a San Tan Valley water utility company connected with a suspected bribery scheme.

The commission will also have a consultant look at a 2013 policy change that allowed 28 utilities officials to pass a part of their personal income tax burden onto customers. Under the change, Johnson Utilities charged customers $3 per month for getting water and wastewater services through the company, reports said.

Pinal County Supervisor Mike Goodman has called the tax change a bad policy.

“I don’t think it’s fair to the customer to be paying that rate to pay someone’s personal income taxes,” he said.

The decision Tuesday came after a former commissioner was accused of accepting bribes from company manager George Johnson. Gary Pierce was given $31,000 to approve higher rates, according to the indictment. Pierce was on the commission from 2007-14 and served as a chairman.

The indictment states the money was handed down to Pierce through his wife, Sherry, and lobbyist Jim Norton.

Pierce also supported the policy change, reports said.

Johnson, Norton, Pierce and his wife all pleaded innocent to the charges last week. A trial is scheduled for Aug. 1.

Pierce’s former staff adviser John LeSueur, who currently works with the Attorney General’s office, has offered to help the commission’s hired consultant understand how the tax policy changes were made.

It wasn’t clear whether customers…

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