Update: Public Service Commission director forced to resign
UPDATE: Since this article first appeared, Florida Power & Light Company has contacted the St. Petersburg Times regarding statements (appearing in some versions of this report) that FPL employees Eric Silagy and Ken Hoffman met with PSC Chairman Art Graham and urged him to remove Tim Devlin from his position as director of the PSC. Florida Power & Light denies that its employees ever met or communicated with Chairman Graham to advocate Devlin's removal.
Timothy Devlin, the 35-year Public Service Commission veteran who serves as the agency's executive director, submitted his resignation today after only 16 months on the job. He was asked to resign by commission chairman Art Graham. Graham did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
"As the majority of the Commission is in support of the Chairman's request for my resignation, I am tendering my resignation effective close of business on July 1, 2011,'' Devlin wrote in a curt letter to commissioners late today. His personnel file includes no letters of reprimand and the last management performance review, conducted in 2006, lauded him for "excellent technical skills" "excellent conceptual skills," for doing an "excellent job managing the division budget" and for being highly motivated and a leader."
Devlin, 59, was named executive director Jan. 25, 2010, after the former executive director, Mary Bane, had announced her retirement. Bane then applied for one of the open PSC commission seats but was rejected by the Gov. Charlie Crist.
So on Tuesday's PSC agenda is an unusual first item: "organizational matters." Questions are rampant at the PSC about what prompted the ouster. Staff is supposed to serve as independent advisors to commissioners, not to agree with them. Does Bane want to come back? Does Graham, whose chairmanship expires this year, want to bring in his own staff -- from his hometown of Jacksonville -- to help him retain influence after his term as chairman expires?
A year ago, Devlin made an unusual request of the utility companies. He asked them to report how many former PSC employees they had hired and how much they were paying them. The goal was to determine whether there was an indirect cost to customers when utilities are able to buy access and insight into regulators. The utilities successfully fended off the request and haven't reported the information.
Meanwhile, FPL is preparing to file another rate increase request in January. Since the company lost its appeal for a $1 billion rate increase request in 2009, FPL has been one of the four largest contributors to legislative campaign accounts, according to records filed at the Florida Division of Elections. In the last two years, senators have rejected the confirmation of two of commissioners who voted against that rate increase and a legislatively-controlled nominating commission refused to recommend the other two for reappointment.
Now, Commissioner Lisa Edgar is the only commissioner remaining who voted against the rate increase and she was part of the unanimous vote to name Devlin to head the agency to replace Edgar's long-time friend, Mary Bane. Tomorrow's discussion may tell us more.