TALLAHASSEE — Sparks flew during the first day of hearings on Florida Power & Light's proposed rate increase Monday, as state regulators ordered a conflict of interest investigation into their own staff and FPL turned over confidential documents detailing what it pays 400 top executives.
Minutes into the hearing, Public Service Commissioner Nathan Skop called for the resignation of Ryder Rudd, the commission staff lobbyist, based on a phone call he had received from Rudd over the weekend. Rudd told Skop he had attended a Kentucky Derby party in May at the Palm Beach Gardens home of Ed Tancer, FPL's general counsel and vice president.
Skop said the behavior violated commission rules forbidding staffers from accepting anything of value from regulated industries or talking to them about pending cases.
FPL is asking permission to raise its rates for basic service about 30 percent, and Monday's hearing is the first of what is expected to be weeks of testimony and cross-examination of leaders of the state's largest utility.
A hearing into a similar rate increase request by Progress Energy Florida is to begin in September.
Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, chided the commission Monday for failing to fire Rudd after he admitted socializing with FPL officials.
Commissioner Nancy Argenziano agreed he should be investigated and that the investigation should also include other staffers and PSC commissioners.
Meanwhile, FPL agreed to release salary data for more than 400 executives who make over $165,000 — information the PSC ordered released last week.
But the information will remain confidential pending FPL's appeal to the Florida Supreme Court.
Last week, the PSC voted unanimously to force the company to release the information so it can decide whether FPL is paying excessive salary and bonus packages and whether it should be charging consumers for those salaries.