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Arizona Corp Comm Gets Closer To Adopting Code Of Ethics

Arizona’s public utilities commission is getting closer to adopting a code of ethics.

On Tuesday, the Arizona Corporation Commission released a draft of the policy document for the five person panel of elected officials.

The commission doesn’t have an official code of ethics.

Commissioner Boyd Dunn crafted the proposed code of ethics - much of which is based on existing state law.

For example, Arizona law already requires commissioners to disclose any interest they have in a regulated entity and to recuse themselves from such decisions.

Campaign finance remains one of the biggest topics of contention at the commission. Commissioner Bob Burns is locked in a legal battle with the state’s largest utility, Arizona Public Service, over its alleged “dark money” contributions in the 2014 election cycle.

Dunn said the commission has to be wary of adopting any rules for independent expenditure because those could violate federal law.

“When it comes to independent expenditures, the key element has always been disclosure,” Dunn said.

The code also stipulates that commissioners should not use “their official position to secure any valuable thing or valuable benefit” that could have an improper influence on them.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean receiving a benefit inherently represents a violation of the code. The draft document explains commissioners should “self-regulate their outside activities to minimize the risk of conflict.”

The code does go beyond current state law in some areas. Lobbyists would have to register with the commission. There would also be an ethics officer.

“To make certain there’s no conflict, to encourage them [commissioners] to have their calendars on their websites so everyone knows who we are meeting with and make certain transparency occurs,” Dunn said.

Dunn said he elected for more of a “self-policing” approach to enforcing the code to avoid making it a political tool.

“I think enforcement can be done by the public itself or by the press,” he said.

The commission will hold a public workshop on the code next month and a final version is expected to be adopted not long after. 

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.