Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was rightly questioned for holding out on efforts to get policy-relevant emails she sent from a personal email account during her term at the U.S. State Department.
So far, Commissioner Bob Stump, his Policy Advisor Amanda Ho, and the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) legal staff appear to be engaging in Clintonian-style slow-walking of basic public records requests.
Despite our request on March 11, 2015, for public or private email records of Amanda Ho, Commissioner Stump’s policy aide, about solar energy or net metering in Arizona with any representatives of Arizona Public Service Company, we’ve been met with silence.
It took nine days and a phone call for Stump’s office to acknowledge our March 11, 2015 records request. After we announced that C&BP had retained Arizona’s leading public records attorney to prepare a lawsuit to enforce public access to public records, the responses have been dripping in from former Chairman Stump. But nothing so far from Ms. Ho.
Stump Relies on APS’s Lockwood
According to the ACC to date:
- Despite being a young, tech-savvy and ambitious statewide politician, the commission initially asserted that Stump sent only two emails to any representative of Arizona Public Service for nearly a year and a half on the hottest topic before the ACC at the time – low-cost rooftop residential solar energy for consumers. That’s two emails in a nearly year and a half.
- When our attorney, Dan Barr of Perkins-Coie, pressed the commission for a more truthful accounting six weeks after our initial request, the ACC provided 10 more emails from Stump to APS.
- Of the 12 total emails, all of which were with Barbara Lockwood, APS’s General Manager for Regulatory Policy and Compliance, seven were from Stump’s personal Gmail account and included the following subjects:
- Lockwood passing along an email from the pro-solar TUSK (“Tell Utilities Solar Won’t be Killed) group about phone banking for pro-solar, Republican candidates for the commission (who were ultimately defeated).
- Stump asking for studies on solar versus fossil fuel subsidies. Lockwood responded later, “We haven’t been able to find anything worthwhile.”
- Stump informing Lockwood about an anti-utility bill headed to the Arizona legislature.
- Stump asking Lockwood for materials that he can use at an Edison Electric Institute conference. “Any materials you can send as soon as possible would be great,” writes the Commissioner.
While the emails with APS’ Lockwood seem chummy, the real question concerns the commission’s assertion that Stump emailed the utility so little and Ms. Ho emailed not at all.
To put this into context, we looked at tape of ACC meetings at which former RUCO Special Projects Advisor Lon Huber appeared. The footage provides ample evidence of Stump frequently using his smart phone during ACC meetings, presumably for text or email communications. Here’s a sample:
Why it Matters
It’s worth noting that during Stump’s chairmanship, Arizona became the first state to establish monthly fee payables to a utility by consumers who want low-cost rooftop solar. Stump turned over the chair’s gavel to Susan Bitter Smith on January 15. His term as Commissioner ends in 2016.
In a previous post, we’ve demonstrated that the top officers of APS – who are registered as lobbyists with the Secretary of State – met with the Commissioner repeatedly during the 17 month period of our records request – which was the hottest period of the solar debates.
The number of meetings that have been blacked out from Commissioner Stump’s public calendar is significant.
Yet Stump declares that neither he nor his policy aide ever emailed these top officers – not even from his private Gmail account where, judging from what seems like a very limited set that has been provided to us, over half of his emails to APS originate.
Under Arizona Records Law, if you are a public official, you have an obligation to respond fully to records requests. This is fundamental legal right of the public and it needs to be enforced. Regrettably, we may be forced to find out through a court what Commissioner Stump and his Policy Aide Amanda Ho may be hiding.
Scott Peterson is executive director of the Checks and Balances Project, a national watchdog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP comes from pro-clean energy philanthropies and donors.