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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Chris Smith pushing ouster of Crist's PSC's appointees



Sen. Chris Smith, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat and vice chairman of the Senate’s Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee, told the Herald/Times today that he is working to get colleagues to vote down the confirmation of the governor’s two Public Service Commission appointees.

The meeting to take up their confirmation was cancelled today because, said Jaryn Emhof, Senate spokeswoman, amendments to a major energy bill weren't ready.

Smith said he will vote against confirming Crist appointees David Klement and Benjamin “Steve” Stevens because the governor never should have rejected the reappointment of former PSC Chairman Matt Carter.

“Matt Carter was done wrong,’’ Smith said. “If I just sat and rubber-stamped what the governor’s doing that’s rewarding his injecting politics into this appointment…”

Crist rejected the reappointment of both Carter and Katrina McMurrian in October, saying it was time for “new blood” on the PSC. The utility regulatory board had been wracked by disclosures that commissioners had allowed their staff to exchange text messages, BlackBerry PIN messages and hundreds of phone calls with utility representatives, allowing their staff to get too close to the utilities they regulate.

Smith said he realizes that by making this point he keep politics alive in the PSC appointment process but noted: The way to judge those decisions is by voting no on these two, and force the governor to go back to reevaluate injecting politics into this.’’
Q: Is it a race issue? 

Smith:  “I don’t know. There is no racial diversity on the PSC right now and the mere fact, race aside, you had a qualified commissioner who wasn’t reappointed.”

Q: Did Carter have any authority over PSC staff?

Smith: “The chairman does have some authority over staff but the chairman doesn’t babysit staff. The chairman can’t say you can’t go to a Kentucky Derby party if the chairman doesn’t know that his staff members didn’t know…You’re putting too much pressure on him.’’

Q: Is the issue before the committee the appointment of Matt Carter or the confirmation of these two individuals?

Smith: “The issue is, do I believe the right decision has been made and was Matt Carter qualified and should he be removed.”

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 11:27am]


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