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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Argenziano's ethics complaint is dropped, but questions emerge about it

11

June

The ethics complaint dropped against Public Service Commissioner Nancy Argenziano last week wasn't because the charges didn't stick. It was brought on by the complainant -- who withdrew her claims, alleged the document was forged by a Tallahasssee attorney Steve Andrews and said he promised to help her find work with Florida Power & Light.

These explosive claims by Cynthia E. Gray -- also known as C. Gray in the complaint -- were included in a sworn affidavit presented to the Florida Commission on Ethics April 1. She said she was working as an investigator for attorney Andrews but had no knowledge of the ethics complaint filed against Argenziano last October. Download Argenziano 09122+Recommendation+to+Allow+Withdrawal[1]

Gray said Andrews had once asked her to sign a blank complaint, which she did at a Tallahassee bar, but it was not the document filed against Argenziano. She said Andrews later told her that, "as a result of signing the complaint, he would assist me in becoming employed with Florida Power & Light Corporation as an investigator'' with the help of FPL lobbyist Brian Ballard.

Andrews vehemently denies the allegations and, in a letter to the Ethics Commission from his lawyer, said he has computer data that proves Gray signed the actual complaint. He had he never discussed the ethics complaint "with anyone employed by or associated with any utility company."

"She's a very good investigator except that I think Argenziano got to her," Andrews told the Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times.

Gray was reached by phone but would not comment. Ballard said he has "never hired Steve Andrews for anything'' and called the allegations "ridiculous."

FPL spokesman Mark Bubriski said the company never hired Andrews, didn't know anything about Gray, and "no one knew anything about'' the complaint.

The twisted events prompted the Ethics Commission's executive director, Phil Claypool, to call it "the most bizarre situation I have seen during the last 30 years."

When the complaint was filed, Argenziano was under fire by FPL and Associated Industries of Florida, which had joined in support of the $1.3 billion rate increase request sought by the utility company.Download Argenziano 09122+Complaint[1]

Now, Argenziano is seeking reappointment to the PSC. Andrews has re-filed the complaint, alleging she didn't report a conflict of interest with a lobbyist and failed to report property. Argenziano and her lawyer believe the incident is proof of an organized attempt at intimidation.

 "I was intimiated. I was slandered. I was libeled," she said. "This issue was a fabricated attempt to get headlines."

Without Gray's complaint, the Ethics Commission voted on June 4 to dismiss the complaint at Gray's request but, in a May 17 memo to commissioners, Claypool noted that while Gray filed her affidavit under oath, Andrew's response disputing her claims was not an affidavit.

The memo also noted that "determining exactly how the complaint was generated may have ramifications that may generate interest from other agencies, such as the Florida Bar or FDLE."

Andrews said "he would welcome that investigation'' and three weeks ago renewed the complaint after Gray withdrew it. His attorney's 117-page response said Gray's affidavit was "entirely untrue'' and an attempt at retribution for Andrews decision to stop using her as an investigator. Attached were e-mails from her complaining that she was desperate for work, having recently lost a job with another attorney, but never made any reference to an FPL promise. Download Argenziano 09122+Response+from+Former+C+attorney+and+22+Exhibits

The ethics commission report released this week indicated that while there appeared to be no legal basis to pursue allegations of conflict of interest against Argenziano, there are grounds to investigate her for reporting property sold in the incorrect year, using the wrong financial disclosure form to report a car loan, and failing to report her ownership of a motor home.

Argenziano's attorney, Ron Meyer, said he believes that "someone was very, very, very interested in discrediting and intimidating Nancy Argenziano at a time when very significant rate issues were pending before the PSC.

"I would imagine that Cindy Gray will be subject to intimidation in the same manner."

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 11:42am]

    

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