Make us your home page

The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Ethics complaint renewed against PSC's Edgar



A St. Petersburg man has renewed the ethics complaint against Public Service Commissioner Lisa Edgar, asking the Florida Commission on Ethics to review its investigation of allegations that she violated state ethics laws when she allowed her aide to serve as an intermediary between her and a Florida Power & Light lobbyist in the midst of a pending utilities case.

Doc Tomkiel, who has previously filed an ethics complaints against Lieutenant Gov. Jeff Kottkamp accusing him of using the state plane for personal travel, is now asking the ethics commission to investigate Edgar based on a Sept. 26 report in the Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times. The article raised questions about whether ethics commission investigators thoroughly reviewed the record before clearing Edgar of ethics charges. Download FCE Complaint against Lisa Edgar 01-04-10

Ethics Commission Executive Director Philip Claypool told the Herald/Times that investigators did not review the audiotape of the Nov. 6, 2008 fuel hearing and compare it to the email exchange between Edgar and her aide, Roberta Bass, to determine the veracity of their testimony under oath. He said he could not re-open the investigation until a new complaint was filed. The first complaint was filed by Tallahassee businessman Steve Stewart.

Edgar said Thursday the complaint "has already been investigated and the finding was no improper communication.'' She called the arrival of the complaint a week before the commission votes on FPL and Progress Energy rate cases "interesting timing, with so many personal agendas trying to influence recent and near commission votes, appointments  and confirmations.''

According to the email exchange, FPL attorney Ken Hoffman called Bass out of the hearing room during the hearing and Bass then sent Edgar an e-mail stating ``Need to talk to you,'' followed by one that said ``Just talked with Ken.'' Edgar responded: ``Come to the corner . . . please.''

State laws forbid commissioners from directly communicating with utility officials on any pending case before them and prohibits aides from serving as intermediaries for that communication. The Ethics Commission concluded that, based on the testimony from Edgar, Bass and Hoffman, the discussion did not relate to the pending fuel case but instead related to a procedural vote relating to a disgruntled FPL worker who drilled a hole in a nuclear reactor and therefore Edgar did not violate ethics laws.

But the time stamp on the e-mail didn't match the order in which issues were discussed during the hearing. Bass first e-mailed Edgar at 9:48 a.m., 10 minutes into the hearing and long before the hole-drilling issue came up. The audiotape indicates the hole-drilling discussion began at 10:38 a.m.

Edgar said of the renewed complaint: "The Ethics Commission will do its job, and I will continue to do mine.''

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 1:13pm]


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours