State political watchdog fines former PUC commissioner

Published on

Monterey County Herald (California)

SACRAMENTO (AP) – The Fair Political Practices Commission has fined former Public Utilities Commission member Henry Duque $18,000 for voting on issues involving a company in which he had an investment.

Duque, appointed to the board in 1995 by former Gov. Pete Wilson, was removed from the PUC by a San Francisco Superior Court judge in April, 2002. The judge found that Duque participated in PUC decisions involving Nextel Communications Inc., a company in which Duque had a $10,000 investment.

Later the same year, the judge’s ruling was reversed by the 1st District Court of Appeal on a technicality, but came after Duque’s term had expired.

In an agreement with the FPPC reached earlier this month, Duque conceded he violated state law by participating in nine government decisions in which he had a financial interest.

Duque, in a statement Friday, said he never intentionally broke the law.

“During the time I owned Nextel stock, I did not know the company was regulated by the PUC or that the stock presented any potential conflict of interest, and I sold the stock the instant I discovered otherwise.” he said.

Carmen Balber, spokeswoman for the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, which originally challenged Duque’s investments, said the group is happy that the FPPC pursed the case and got Duque to concede he broke state law. But, Balber said, her group is still unhappy that the PUC paid most of his legal fees, which she estimated to be close to $100,000.

She also pointed out that when Duque sold the Nextel stock he earned $70,000 – nearly four times what he has been ordered to pay in fines.

No one from the PUC responded to a request for comment.

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