Sole PSC member who voted with Shores not seeking reappointment

COMMENTARY

MARK SCHUMANN

Lisa Edgar
Lisa Edgar

After a 4-1 vote by the Florida Public Service Commission yesterday denying Indian River Shores’ petition to redraw Vero Electric’s service territory to exclude the Town, the best Shores leaders and their high-priced attorneys can now do is prepare for an expensive appeal, hanging their hopes on the fact that one Commission member “agreed” with them.

The sole Commissioner who supported the Shores’ petition, (and ultimately FPL), was Lisa Edgar. On Jan. 1, Edgar will end her third 4-year, $131,000 a year assignment on the Commission. Edgar has not said publicly what is next for her, but if she follows in the footsteps of other former PSC members, she will move on to a much higher paying job as a lobbyist working for the utility industry. With her eyes perhaps on a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow ahead of her, Edgar may not have been listening closely yesterday when Vero Beach’s special utility counsel Schef Wright eviscerated Shores attorney Bruce May’s many unfounded assertions.

Edgar was first appointed to the PSC in 2005 by Gov. Jeb Bush, then subsequently reappointed by Gov. Charlie Crist in 2008 and by Gov. Rick Scott in 2012.  When it came time for Edgar’s third confirmation by the Senate, she faced some still opposition.  FloridaPolitics.com reported, “…Edgar came under fire during her last appointment, with tea party groups and others urging Scott to replace her, saying she wasn’t aggressively defending the state’ utility customers from rate hikes.”

In joining 13 other Senators who opposed Scott’s re-appointment of Edgar, Senator Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater said, “She does not do an adequate job of representing the ratepayers and consumer of the state of Florida.”

In 2009, Edgar drew unwanted attention when it was reported she and other PSC commissioners and top staffers exchanged text messages with utility executives.  At the time, the Sun Sentinel reported:

Public Service Commission members and their chief advisers exchanged more than 2,900 instant messages on their state-issued smart phones the past two years, some with staffers for utilities they regulate on pending PSC matters.

Details about the exchanges have emerged as the PSC has come under increased scrutiny over the agency’s ties to utilities. Commissioners are deliberating new rules on communication and ethics for themselves and their aides and they have already banned instant messaging.

State law says commissioners can’t communicate with utility staffers and interested parties during pending matters, such as rate increase proposals, but there’s debate on whether the same rules apply to their chief advisers.

A Sun Sentinel review of the instant messages over the past two years found most were between regulators about issues facing the commission, conversations sprinkled with gossip and jokes.

After each defeat in the Shores’ long and expensive fight to secure FPL service for the Town, Mayor Brian Barefoot has released statements reassuring his constituents the now $1 million dollar investment in legal fees will ultimate result in victory.  Barefoot will almost surely do so again after yesterday’s rebuff by the PSC; and he may well point out that the vote against the town was not unanimous. Still, it must be getting increasingly difficult for Barefoot to pretend it is possible to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

 

 

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