Judge: Arizona Constitution Protects Commissioner Burns’ Right To Subpoena APS
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Daniel Kiley said he legally has the right to decide whether Arizona Corporation Commissioner Bob Burns may act alone and demand Arizona Public Service (APS) release its political campaign contributions, even though fellow commissioners oppose it.
In court Monday, Kiley rejected APS’ attorney Mary O’Grady’s argument that Burns is powerless to act without the consent of the full commission. At the very least, O’Grady said, Burns should be forced to wait until the commission votes on APS’s request for a utility rate hike.
The judge acknowledged the state constitution protects Burns’ right to subpoena a corporation, especially when elected officials and publicly traded corporations are involved.
Burns wants to determine how much funding APS, and its parent corporation Pinnacle West, donated to commissioners’ campaigns and which members should be excluded from voting on the rate hike.
His colleagues voted Monday to have the commission pay for their own defense attorneys' fees, but not for Burns' attorney.
“I’m on offense. They're on defense,” he tried to reason. His best guess for the logic, he said, “The history, possibly the policy of the commission, in the past has been to defend defense, but not necessarily offense.”
APS initially challenged his actions as premature and Kiley agreed, telling Burns to seek permission from his colleagues.
The four other members rejected his request and, at one point, Chairman Tom Forese classified the dispute as a political matter beyond a judge’s scope.
Kiley rejected that notion and said the case is an issue needing constitutional interpretation which places the case squarely before his court.