Electric Utility Week (formerly Electrical Week)
California Public Utilities Commissioner Henry Duque on Friday was set to announce an appeal of a court order to remove him from office before his term ends in December.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Alfred Chiantelli in an April 4 tentative ruling found that the commissioner violated state conflict of interest laws by owning shares of the PUC-regulated telecommunications company Nextel. The judge ordered him to be ”excluded from his office and prohibited from performing any further duties as a PUC Commissioner” and to pay a $ 5,000 fine to the state treasury.
Duque would not only appeal the order if it was finalized on Friday but would also seek a stay from the court so he could continue to participate in PUC meetings, said Joseph Remcho, Duque’s lawyer, in an April 5 statement. Duque had held stock in Nextel for 15 months, selling it for a profit at $ 69,000 in September 2000 after a San Francisco Chronicle reporter questioned his ownership.
The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights discovered his previous ownership and sought approval from the state attorney general in October 2000 to file a lawsuit. Once the AG gave his approval, the lawsuit proceeding began in March 2001 to remove Duque from office.
FTCR expected Duque would step down to avoid the personal expense of the appeal, said a spokesman for the group. He said he hoped the removal of the only Republican PUC commissioner would pave the way for a consumer-friendly commissioner to give more power to President Loretta Lynch and Commissioner Carl Wood, both Democrats on the 5-member PUC. The other two Democrat commissioners — Geoffrey Brown and Mike Peevey — have voted against Wood and Lynch in PUC meetings.