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Despite Commission Vote, Arizona Regulator To Move Forward With Dark-Money Inquiry

Corporation Commissioner Bob Burns

Arizona regulators have decided to stop paying for a long-running legal fight against the state’s largest utility.

On Tuesday, the Arizona Corporation Commission voted 3-1 not to fund Commissioner Bob Burns' latest effort to get Arizona Public Service and its parent company Pinnacle West to disclose whether it was behind alleged dark money spending in 2014 to help elect Commissioners Tom Forese and Doug Little.

But that doesn’t mean Burns is going to stop trying to get to the bottom of the issue.

"They have refused to comply with the subpoenas, so in order to get compliance we need to go to court,” Burns told KJZZ following the meeting.

The commission had initially agreed to pay for Burns’ legal fees because the utility had sued him after he issued his subpoenas. Now APS has dropped that suit, and Burns has filed a new lawsuit to make the utility disclose the records.

He said his lawyers will work on the case pro bono, at least until he finds a way to get the commission to pay.

Burns suggested he may even pursue a legal action against the commission to make that happen.

"There could be a suit filed against the commission to get them to live up to their responsibility to fund my actions," Burns said.

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Will Stone grew up with the sounds of public radio. As a senior field correspondent, he strives to tell the same kind of powerful stories that got him into the business — whether that means trudging through some distant corner of the Sonoran Desert or uncovering an unknown injustice right down the street. Since joining the KJZZ newsroom in 2015, he has covered political scandals, fights over the future of energy, and efforts to care for some of Arizona’s most vulnerable communities. His pieces have also aired on national programs like Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here & Now and Marketplace. Before coming to KJZZ, he reported for public radio stations in Nevada and Connecticut. Stone received his degree in English literature from Haverford College, where he also wrote about the arts and culture scene in Philadelphia. After graduating, he interned at NPR West in Culver City, California, where he learned from some of the network’s veteran reporters and editors. When he doesn’t have a mic in hand, Stone enjoys climbing mountains, running through his central Phoenix neighborhood and shamelessly promoting his cat, Barry.