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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Nancy Argenziano's messages provide window into PSC and make her a target

19

October

The e-mail records and instant messages from staff and commissioners at the Florida Public Service Commission offer a glimpse into the intrapersonal relationships at the embattled agency, and a stream-of-consciousness window into the unbridled thoughts of Commissioner Nancy Argenziano.

First, the former state senator called for an investigation of the Legislature's influence on the PSC, and accused many at the agency of being ``too cozy'' with the utilities they regulate; then the Herald/Times revealed that an aide to Commissioner Lisa Edgar gave her BlackBerry PIN codes to a Florida Power & Light attorney and aides to Commissioner Matthew Carter.

When Argenziano discovered that her aide, Larry Harris, sent his PIN code to FPL, she fired him because it violated her policy of not talking to anyone who was regulated. Harris told the Herald/Times at the time: "Commissioner Argenziano's position was very clear -- I was not to talk to anyone who is regulated."

Although the PSC said it did not keep any record of PIN messages, it conducted a sweep of the data residing on state-issued BlackBerrys on Sept. 10 and found 3,000 messages, more than 2,400 of them between Argenziano and Harris.

Associated Industries of Florida, which has intervened in the rate case on behalf of FPL, posted only the Argenziano messages on its Web site, AIF.com. AIF president Barney Bishop called for the PSC's inspector general to conduct an investigation of Argenziano, but made no similar call for inquiries into other commissioners and their aides for their phone calls to utility officials, e-mails and PIN messages, also reported by the Herald/Times. 

Since speaking out against the PSC, Argenziano has been hit with two ethics complaints against her for buying property in North Carolina with her former political consultant and lobbyist, Rockie Pennington. She said she relied on PIN messages to her aide because she worked from home for the past several months as she was recovering from complications from breaking her leg while vacationing in North Carolina. She said her doctor there required her to keep her leg elevated.

Here's the full story on Argenziano's messages and the icy relationships at the PSC. Here's Argenziano's response to the story:

"First, I instructed my aide to have NO contact with lobbyists, not some cute reliance on edited notes; Second, my communications with my aide, whether in person or by any means whatsoever, is legal, and necessary.  Think:  If there cannot be the free flow of ideas and comment between commissioners and their chief advisors, or between legislators and their aides, or between judges and their clerks, how complete and informed will subsequent decisions be? How is that a double standard?  My criticisms are of communications with those regulated by the PSC, or their agents. It is not of their communications with their aides, which is, per se, of no interest to me. 

"Third, I listen critically to all parties’ witnesses. If you construe that as skepticism, there is nothing I can do.  Fourth, why do the media focus and exploit my legal communication with my aide over PSC business, no matter how inartful, over that activity of those who possibly engage in ex parte PINs requesting instructions from industry agents or others? Or those whose huge gaps in their PIN records demand inquiry, or the refusal of the PSC to allow detection by third parties of intentional deletions of PINs?

"As to the “…google e-mail account whose data resides outside the state server.”, I did not have a PSC computer, and in any event, all messages, both the sent and received, reside on my aides “state server” to which you have access.

"If you truly believe that communications between Commissioners and their aides is inappropriate, and its disclosure not undertaken merely for the purpose of abjectly titillating the public between episodes of Dancing with the Stars, than I would expect that you would have flooded the Legislature with requests for exactly those types of communications, to determine the extent of undue influence in fashioning legislation, the extent of arranging contributions, or any other matter of both valid and ghoulish curiosity."

Nancy Argenziano  

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[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 3:23pm]

    

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