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Inquiry into PSC finds no criminal wrongdoing

TALLAHASSEE — Leon County State Attorney Willie Meggs said Monday that a joint investigation between his office and state police into the state's public utilities regulator has not turned up any criminal wrongdoing.

"At this point, everything that has come up is a dead end, as far as any criminal skullduggery going on," Meggs told the Times/Herald on Monday. "I'm not stating that we have closed this, but we have interviewed everybody that we know to interview that seems to be involved."

Meggs said investigators from his staff and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement have interviewed the five current and former members of the Public Service Commission and their staffers about potential open meeting violations.

Because the PSC serves as a quasi-judicial panel, state law prohibits commissioners from having any direct conversations between each other and officials from the utilities they regulate about any matter pending before them.

"If you have two commissioners that are talking privately, they can do that as long as they are not talking about business and matters coming before the board," Meggs said. But he added that those cases are hard to prove, "unless one of them comes forward and says: 'I violated the Sunshine Law.' "

FDLE spokeswoman Heather Smith confirmed that the investigation is still ongoing, but "we are not able to provide any detail about the interviews we are conducting or the information we are passing on to them."

Meanwhile, two PSC staffers who had been placed on administrative leave pending the investigation have returned to work.

Roberta Bass, aide to Commissioner Lisa Edgar, returned to work Monday, and William Garner, aide to Commission Chairman Matt Carter, returned to work Oct. 5. Carter said last week that he had been told that the FDLE had cleared his aide of any wrongdoing.

Investigators launched their inquiry in September, after the Times/Herald reported on e-mails that showed that PSC staffers had given BlackBerry messaging codes to Florida Power & Light officials in the midst of a series of cases before the commission.

The newspapers also reported that a PSC lobbyist, Ryder Rudd, had attended a Kentucky Derby party at the home of an FPL vice president during that same period.

Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at meklas@MiamiHerald.com.

Inquiry into PSC finds no criminal wrongdoing 10/12/09 [Last modified: Monday, October 12, 2009 10:07pm]
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