Thursday, August 5, 2004

Stumbo's office offers to share report

Public Service Commission accused in utility rate case

The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - The Attorney General's Office proposed Wednesday to provide the Public Service Commission with a status report on its investigation into whether the commission had improper communications during a recent rate case.

The offer came after a request by the commission for information on the investigation.

Attorney General Greg Stumbo is looking into whether the commission communicated improperly with Louisville Gas & Electric Co. and Kentucky Utilities officials during the utilities' recent rate increase case.

While that investigation is continuing, the commission has reopened the rate hearing, which Stumbo's office was a party to.

Meanwhile, Stumbo's office asked the commission to postpone making a decision until its investigation is complete.

"The Public Service Commission's duty is to protect the public interest. It cannot protect the public interest by short circuiting a process which involves an investigation of ex parte contacts by the commission itself," Assistant Deputy Attorney General Pierce Whites wrote in papers filed Wednesday with the commission.

In June, the Public Service Commission approved a $101.4 million rate increase for the utilities. Stumbo subsequently launched an investigation into whether there were illegal communications between employees of the utilities and the commission.

The commission lost a motion in Franklin Circuit Court to quash the investigation and decided later that day to reopen the case.

Wednesday was billed as a staff meeting between the parties involved in the rate case, and was aimed at setting procedures for the reopened hearing, commission spokesman Andrew Melnykovich said.

Initially, commission officials wanted the meeting closed. However, reporters were let in after attorneys in the case reconsidered.

Whites said he would provide the commission with a status report by the end of next month.

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