PHOENIX — Arizona utility regulators have voted to fire an attorney and allow the state’s largest utility to openly defy one regulator’s orders to provide political finance records.
The Corporation Commission’s 3-1 vote Tuesday leaves Commissioner Bob Burns without a lawyer in his fight against Arizona Public Service Co.
Burns had issued subpoenas to APS and its parent company, Pinnacle West, for corporate records last year.
He sought information on whether the companies spent any money on outside groups in the 2014 election, which drew more than $3 million in spending by dark money groups that do not have to disclose their donors.
APS and Pinnacle West filed suit against Burns, saying the subpoenas were unlawful, but later dismissed the complaint.
Burns continued the legal challenge and sued to enforce the subpoenas.
Bill Richards, Burns’ attorney, said his client had every right to sue because “his rights as a commissioner have been subverted and denied so far.”
But the commission’s vote to no longer pay Richards ends the legal action aimed at making the companies comply with the subpoenas.
Commissioner Andy Tobin called Burns’ effort a “goose chase” and the other two commissioners joined him in voting to end the legal fight.
Burns had tried to delay the vote to next month’s meeting, but commission Chairman Tom Forese said Burns was only trying to stall and would not allow the delay.
Forese also suggested commission staff assess whether Burns should have to foot the bill for any legal fees.
Richards has so far been paid more than $15,000 by the commission, according to commission spokesman Angie Holdsworth.
Burns called the commission’s decision “a weakening of the entire commission’s authority.”
“I have not had one person come to me and say you should not be doing this to APS. It has been the opposite,” Burns said. “They are encouraging me and
encouraging me to get this resolved. APS needs to supply their records.”
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