The Role of a PUC Commissioner – Part 2

July 19, 2022 – When voters think of elected officials they often think first of our representatives in Congress, legislators, county commissioners, school board members, or city commissioners. Each of these elected officials routinely make policy decisions which for the most part are based on how the elected official thinks based on their values, their experience, and public input. Most of these decisions are called “legislative” decisions. The public official answers only to the voters for the choices they make.

By state law the role of a public utilities commissioner is different. Most decisions of the PUC are called “administrative” decisions. Those decisions must be based on the facts and evidence presented in each case or docket on which the vote is cast guided by the applicable state law.

While PUC commissioners certainly answer to the voters, the decisions they make, if challenged, must first be answered for in the court system. Nearly every decision of the PUC can be immediately appealed to the courts. If the courts find that the decision was not based on the facts and law of the case, the court will overturn the vote of the commissioners. The legal term applied to that type of illegal decision is “arbitrary and capricious”.

PUC commissioners aren’t kings with unfettered authority. Commissioners MUST approach each case without conflict of interest or bias.

In my time as a commissioner I have worked hard to understand the facts of each case presented to me and apply the law as written to that case. My decisions have been sound. In the eleven and a half years I have been on the commission, no decision of the Commission has been overturned by the state Supreme Court. I respect the rule of law and believe that respect serves you best.