In an official filing today with the California Attorney General’s office, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) began the legal process that could ultimately lead to CPUC Commissioner Duque’s removal from office. The filing is based on an alleged violation by Commissioner Duque of a conflict of interest law that prohibits CPUC Commissioners from having a financial interest in entities they regulate.
“Because the public needs to have complete confidence in its regulators, especially those that decide issues with such an enormous potential impact on their daily lives and pocketbooks, it is imperative that the Attorney General issue a formal opinion on Mr. Duque’s conflict,” stated Pamela Pressley, FTCR staff attorney. ” Our public officials must be held accountable for their actions by being removed from office when they fail to comply with the letter of the law.”
FTCR, in papers filed with the Attorney General, alleged that Mr. Duque violated section 303(a) of the Public Utilities Code when he owned stocks in Nextel Communications, a mobile telecommunications company that is an authorized California utility subject to regulation by the California Public Utilities Commission. Section 303(a) states that “[a] public utilities commissioner may not hold an official relation to nor have a financial interest in a person or corporation subject to regulation by the commission.”
FTCR contends that the appropriate remedy for a violation of this conflict of interest statute is an action in quo warranto–a civil action that allows a court to order a public official’s removal from office. The Attorney General has the authority to grant permission to private individuals and organizations to bring a quo warranto action in the name of the People of the State of California.
Mr. Duque will have 15 days to respond to the allegations directly to the Attorney General. If the Attorney ultimately issues an opinion granting FTCR permission to bring a quo warranto action, that action will be filed by FTCR in superior court where a judge would determine whether Commissioner Duque should be removed from office.