Column | Protecting ratepayers: Corporation Commission must adopt Judicial Code of Conduct

There’s a crisis of integrity at the Arizona Corporation Commission and it’s time to elect commissioners who are willing to put ratepayers first! While the average Arizonan is working hard to keep food on the table and take care of their family, the only time they ever hear about the Arizona Corporation Commission because of bad things: conflicts of interest, drugs, and resignations that have plagued the Commission for nearly two decades. And utility rate increases.

Recent scandals have included: indictment of a member for giving rate increases to a utility paying the commissioners spouse; illegal drugs found in ACC offices; and most recently, a commissioner being questioned for championing a proposal that benefited a donor, who funded more than 50% of the commissioner’s election campaign.

None of the problems at the ACC have occurred because of how Commissioners are elected. Rather, they all have resulted from how commissioner behave once in office.

I’m proud to have the support of longtime Mohave County Republican elected officials including State Senator Sonny Borrelli, State Representative Gina Cobb, Bullhead City Mayor Tom Brady, and Lake Havasu City Mayor Mark Nexsen because they know Arizona ratepayers deserve better!

We have the right to not have utilities funneling money into the joint bank accounts of the regulators, not have commissioners hearing cases that will benefit lobbyists and utilities that have contributed to their campaigns, and not have commissioners accepting free food or trips funded by the utilities they regulate.

As a Major in the United States Air Force Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps Reserves, I subscribe to the Air Force Core Value of “Integrity First. Without integrity, even my MBA and PhD in Arid Land Resource Sciences (80% of ACC rate cases are water companies) would be irrelevant to my ability to contribute as a member of the ACC. By adopting the Judicial Code of Conduct the ACC can protect ratepayers, and restore credibility to our state’s most powerful, elected, regulatory body.

What is the Corporation Commission?

The core of the Corporation Commission’s job is to hear rate cases, where utilities come before the Commission, to ask for permission to adjust rates. Commissioners are not supposed to be activists or advocates; rather, they are supposed to act as impartial, unbiased judges. Sadly, the simple constitutionally mandated duties of the Corporation Commission have been overshadowed by accusations of illegal, unethical, and sometimes simply incredulous behavior by Corporation Commissioners.

Arizonans are sick of reading about scandals and pay-for-play schemes. When the Corporation Commission hears rate cases they are acting as judges; hearing evidence, applying the law, and making a decision. Restoring the public’s trust can be easily accomplished by adopting the same code of conduct followed by every other judge in Arizona. Arizonans deserve nothing less.

The Arizona Code of Judicial Conduct stands tall as a time-tested, ethical guide for Arizona–it simply works.

Why the Arizona Code of Judicial Conduct?

The Arizona Code of Judicial Conduct establishes standards for all judges in Arizona, including elected Justices of the Peace. The Code’s preamble reads:

Judges should maintain the dignity of judicial office at all times and avoid both impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in their professional and personal lives.

It is comprised of four canons which require judges to uphold and promote independence, integrity, and impartiality through their actions, not only while performing their duty but also while campaigning, and throughout their professional and civic activities.

The judicial code embodies the highest standard of conduct of any code of ethics in our state, guards against behavior that creates the appearance of impropriety, and incorporates a clear system of redress when there are allegations of misconduct – the voter created independent Commission on Judicial Conduct–which serves as a neutral arbiter in deciding whether or not a judge has violated the Code.

It’s time to clean up the Corporation Commission by adopting a thoughtful, time-tested, and universally-accepted code of conduct that protects ratepayers and restores integrity. To read my recommendation to the Corporation Docket in support of adopting the Arizona Code of Judicial Conduct please visit www.rodneyglassman.com.

Rodney Glassman is an attorney and Republican candidate for the Arizona Corporation Commission and can be reached at rodney@rodneyglassman.com.