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Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - 10:38am

PSC Votes To Delay Chairmanship Matter

Today the Public Service Commission decided not to fight the state Attorney General. He disagrees with them on their plan to change how their chairman is determined.

But three of the five PSC members disagree with his recent legal opinion, so the matter remains alive.

Last week, Attorney General Thurbert Baker told the Public Service Commission it was violating Georgia law. The PSC wants to elect its chairman, instead of a going by a state-mandated yearly rotation. In addition, the Commission wants to lengthen the chairman’s term from one to two years.

One of the two PSC commissioners who voted against the change, along with Chuck Eaton, is Bobby Baker:

"I was hoping the Attorney General's opinion would have eliminated any ambiguity regarding the commissioners previous actions on May 5th, and that they would have taken his advice to heart and eliminate this problem."

But instead, a cloud of legal limbo remains.

Today’s PSC meeting sparked some back-and-forth on the commission panel. Stan Wise disagrees with the Attorney General’s opinion, and with fellow commissioner Baker:

"It’s still just an opinion. It's subject to put this Commission in position where we have to fight. Somebody has to challenge this decision...we don't just have to back it up, just because the attorney general makes an opinion."

The challenge involves the state Constitution. Wise, Lauren McDonald, and current commission chairman Doug Everett say it does give the PSC the right to elect its own chair.

But a statute was put in-place in 1992 by lawmakers mandating the current system. A bill to remove the provision this year died in the General Assembly’s final hours.

Everett says he and the other two want the change for continuity-sake.

"We are the only agency that changes a chairman every year, a lot of times in mid-stream of a very important project. That's the reason we were trying to do what we did."

But watchdog groups worry if the Commission gets to elect its own chairman, consumer-friendly PSC members may never get the top job.

The PSC decided not to push for legal action now. Instead, the three commission members pushing for change only tabled the matter until next January.

That’s when they hope lawmakers will remove the block of a state law.

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