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PSC members named in ethics complaint

The four are accused of accepting utilities' support for events at a convention of regulators in Miami.

By LOUIS HAU
Published June 9, 2004

The Florida Commission on Ethics is reviewing a complaint filed against four members of the Public Service Commission for allegedly accepting utility money when they hosted a meeting of utility regulators in Miami two years ago.

A retired school administrator in Stuart said he filed the complaint in December. Lloyd Brumfield, 77, said he did so after reading press reports about how utility companies had helped pay for events that were part of the 2002 annual meeting of the Southeastern Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.

The Florida PSC hosted the meeting, which is held in a different state in the Southeast each year.

According to state statute, a PSC commissioner "may not accept anything from any business entity which, either directly or indirectly, owns or controls any public utility regulated by the commission" or from "a party in a proceeding currently pending before the commission."

Brumfield described the events the utilities sponsored as "payola." Brumfield said he filed the complaint against Braulio Baez, Rudy Bradley, Terry Deason and Lila Jaber. Commissioner Charles Davidson was not yet a member of the commission at the time of the Miami meeting.

Ethics commission spokeswoman Helen Jones said it is the commission's policy to neither confirm nor deny any current investigations. PSC spokesman Kevin Bloom said he had no firsthand knowledge of an ethics complaint against the four commissioners. He said none of the commissioners accepted any gifts from utilities during the Miami meeting.

Progress Energy Florida of St. Petersburg and Florida Power & Light of Juno Beach paid $3,000 and $3,800, respectively, to co-sponsor a luncheon at the gathering. The Florida Telecommunications Industry Association sponsored a golf tournament during the meeting using money collected from Progress, Verizon, BellSouth and Sprint.

Separately, the PSC nominating council on Tuesday elected Walter L. Revell to a four-year term on the council but failed to fill a second pending vacancy.

The council is a quasi-legislative body in charge of nominating candidates for vacancies on the PSC. The governor appoints PSC commissioners from the candidates recommended by the council.

The council also re-elected state Senate staff director Greg Krasovsky as chairman and elected former state Rep. Julie McClure as vice chairman.

Revell, 69, chaired Gov. Jeb Bush's Florida Energy 20/20 Study Commission from 2000 to 2001 and served as state secretary of transportation in 1972 to 1975. None of the other six candidates received the minimum four votes needed to win election to the council. It marked the first time in at least 12 years that the council had failed to fill a vacancy, according to general counsel Michael Dodson. The council plans to readvertise the vacancy and will vote at a later date to fill the remaining vacancy.

In July, the council will begin collecting applications for the seat held by Jaber, whose term expires in January 2005. A PSC spokesman said he didn't know whether Jaber would seek reappointment.

- Times research Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Louis Hau can be reached at 813 226-3404 or hau@sptimes.com

[Last modified June 9, 2004, 01:00:39]

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