PSC picks former commissioner and utility lawyer to become its executive director
The Florida Public Service Commission recycled one of their own on Thursday in its pick for executive director and appointed former Commissioner Braulio Baez to be its next executive director on a divided 3-2 motion.
Voting for Baez were Commissioners Lisa Edgar, Julie Brown and Ron Brise. Voting against the motion to select him were Commissioners Art Graham and Eduardo Balbis.
Baez was appointed by former Gov. Jeb Bush to serve on the PSC and served from Aug. 2000 to January 2006. He was also a commission aide from 1994 to 1998. Until last year, he was a lawyer in the Tallahassee office of Akerman Senterfitt and, between 2006 to 2009, worked at the law firm of Holland and Knight.
Baez will replace Tim Devlin, whom Graham forced out as executive director in May. The job will pay between $115,000 and $125,000.
Of the three candidates for executive director, Baez came with the most Florida utility experience. As a former commissioner, he is intimately familiar with the issues and history of the PSC. But the board, tainted in recent years for being too close to the utilities, may also face some criticism for Baez's links to the utilities as well. He faced ethics charges for accepting a meal from a Florida Power & Light lawyer while he was a sitting commissioner and since leaving the PSC he has represented electric utilities and telecommunications companies since leaving the PSC.
Baez's Linked In bio says he "drove legal strategies involving critical infrastructure issues for Fortune 500 electric utility, independent power producers, private equity firms, investment banks, and other clients in the electric, telecommunications, and water and wastewater industries. Secured regulatory approvals from Federal Communications Commission and Colorado Public Utilities Commission to transfer customers and authorizations from a Fortune 100 telecommunications company to a smaller communications and cable services provider."
The other candidates interviewed by the commissioner were Aster Adams of the Ohio Office of Consumers' Counsel, and former Hillsborough County Commissioner Christopher "Chris" Hart. Adams, who has a doctorate in economics from Vanderbilt University, was a division chief and chief economist in several utility rate cases before the authority.
Baez agreed to pay a $1,169 fine in 2007 after the Ethics Commission found that he accepted a dinner from Florida Power & Light contract lawyer Susan Clark. When billed $30 for the event, Baez paid it, even though it cost $174 per person.
"I only hope you can look beyond this single incident while evaluating my integrity and evaluating my candidacy for this position," Baez told the commissioners during his interview on Wednesday. "I'm confident all the other experiences I've had here will show I have a lot to offer you and this agency."