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State Regulator Accuses Chairman Of Possible 'Misconduct'

Arizona Corporation Commission debate
(Photo by Howard Fischer - Capitol Media Services)
Commissioner Bob Burns campaigned on his efforts to reveal the source of dark money spending in 2014. Now he has accused another commissioner of possible "misconduct."

Arizona Corporation Commissioner Bob Burns has accused Chairman Tom Forese of possible misconduct.

Those comments came at the beginning of a public hearing Wednesday on Arizona Public Service’s proposed rate increase.

The bad blood between the two regulators, who oversee public utilties in the state, seems to have been building in recent months. Forese has repeatedly criticized Burns for his efforts to force APS and its parent company to reveal whether it was behind dark money spending in 2014 to help elect Forese and Commissioner Doug Little.

Burns was the only commissioner to vote against Forese becoming chair.

Now Burns is publicly airing his displeasure.

He said Forese has blocked him from holding a public comment meeting in Flagstaff on the APS rate hike. Then when he tried to schedule a staff meeting to discuss the matter, he said the chairman cancelled it with no explanation.

“In my opinion, this borders on, if not does, represent public misconduct, and it for certain does show a level of disrespect for a commission officer," Burns said.

He said the other commissioners — through their silence — seem to condone the behavior, and he believes it’s all connected to their opposition to his legal fight with APS.

"I think it's egregious and something that you, the public, need to know. This is your commission," Burns said.

Forese made no response to Burns' comments at the meeting.

Commissioner Andy Tobin said he was in favor of holding a public hearing in the Verde Valley, which was centrally located near Flagstaff and other neighboring communities like Prescott.

"I do support what I considered a very broad review and opportunity for the public to comment" on the APS rate case.

The commission recently voted to stop paying the legal fees for Burns' lawsuit against APS. Burns said his lawyer is handling the case pro-bono.

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.