Calif. Utilities Commissioner Ousted In Nextel Stock Scandal

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Post-Newsweek Newsbytes

WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.A.: California Public Utilities Commissioner Henry Duque will resign from his post next week amid findings that he bought 700 shares of stock in Nextel Communications [NASDAQ:NXTL], a wireless telecommunications provider regulated by the commission.

A San Francisco superior court judge ruled this week that Duque’s purchase of the Nextel stock constituted a constitutionally prohibited financial conflict of interest.

Under California law, commissioners who acquire a financial interest in companies regulated by the PUC automatically forfeit their authority. Duque also was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.

The California Attorney Generals office launched an investigation into the matter after the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights filed a lawsuit alleging improprieties.

According to the complaint, Duque earned $69,000 from his purchases and sales of Nextel stock during 1999 and 2000 while serving as PUC commissioner.

“This sends the clear message that California officials with conflicts of interest will be punished,” said Pamela Pressley, staff attorney for FTCR. “This ruling heralds a victory for the public interest in ensuring that government officials remain free from financial conflicts, especially when they are serving in a regulatory capacity.

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