Friday, August 14, 2015

AZ Corporation Commissioner Bob Burns wants to keep commission correspondence secret: Why?

This is the latest installment of the BOBghazi STUMPgate series. But do keep reading. The plot thickens.

Apparently, one of the commissioners, Bob Burns, is upset about the furor surrounding fellow commissioner Bob Stump's texting APS lobbyists, a dark money guy, and the candidates for ACC (and their campaign staff). Notice what I said. Burns is not upset about the likely culpability of Stump. He's upset about the public knowledge of it.

I usually don't do this but this time I want you to read the full story by Laurie Roberts at azcentral.com, right here, right now!

Darn those pesky laws that allow the public to see what the heck our leaders are up to.

At least one member of the Arizona Corporation Commission is fed up with the public’s ability to access its inner workings via the Arizona Public Records Law. Commissioner Bob Burns says it’s time to consider putting limits on what the public may see.

Maybe even requiring reporters and other members of the public to clear their requests with judges.

No, really.

Apparently, it just takes too much time to fulfill the public's request for public information on how public officials are conducting the public's business.

"The amount of time and effort, and wasted time in many cases, of a number of key personnel within the agency is just, in my opinion, over the top," Burns told the Yellow Sheet Report, a sister publication of Arizona Capitol Times.

I suppose it depends upon your idea of what is a waste of time.

For months, the Checks and Balances Project has been trying to get a look at Commissioner Bob Stump’s text messages sent on his commission-supplied phone during the 2014 campaign season. Specifically, it's interested in what Stump was talking about in his multiple exchanges with an APS official, the head of a dark-money group believed to be tied to APS and a couple of commission candidates elected with the help of that dark-money group.

It would seem that Mr. Burns doesn’t think the public has any right to get a glimpse into just how cozy (or not) APS has become with the commission that supposedly regulates it.

Then again, that’s not a huge surprise. APS is widely believed to have spent several million dollars on covert campaigns aimed at stacking the commission that regulates utilities with people friendly to utilities. Burns or any other commissioner could require that APS open its books, so that we can see whether the utility bought itself a pair of seats.

While we wait… and wait… and wait …. and yes, wait for that to happen, Burns seems more focused on how to shut down public access to the public’s business. Or as he termed it, "fishing expeditions."

In June, Jodi Jerich, executive director of the Corporation Commission, forwarded a public records request from Checks and Balances Project, the Washington D.C.-based watchdog group that has been digging into commission business.

In his reply to Jerich -- which I obtained via a public records request -- Burns' said it's time to change the Arizona Public Records Law, to restrict public access to public records.

"When does to (sic) much become to (sic) much?," he wrote. "I suggest that it is time for the commission to prepare a report of man hours with the cost labor included for presentation to the Legislative leadership and the Governors (sic) Office on the need to amend the public records request statute. My suggested starting point for change would be something modeled after the method used to acquire a search warrant."

Just as police have to obtain a search warrant to get evidence of murders and such, Burns told the Yellow Sheet that members of the public ought to have to get a judge’s OK to get access to public officials’ correspondence and such.

"The police don’t come into your home without a warrant," he said. "There’s limitations and requirements to be met."

Much as I might agree that the Corporation Commission should be treated as a possible crime scene, I must respectfully disagree, Mr. B.

The Corporation Commission isn’t your home. I believe, technically speaking, that it is ours.

Kudos, Laurie!!!!!!!!!! That last line hits the problem square on. Our elected officials believe that THEY own the office. And then the corruption sets in.

Al Melvin (announced candidate for ACC) will fit right in to this bunch of crooks. Sorry, but that's how I view the ACC these days. The commissioners are public enemies - or I should say, enemies of the public. Take your pick but don't tell me they are well-meaning public servants. Arizonans may not deserve better, but we sure as hell need better.

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