Former Turn Executive Michel Florio Under Fire For Judge-Shopping Scandal

Click on image for original LA Times story published 12-17-14, by Los Angeles Times reporter Marc Lifsher, or scroll down for summary.


Has the septic splatter from the Mike Florio Judge-shopping scandal tainted TURN?

The latest news in the LA Times story by Marc Lifsher illustrates how the ongoing judge-shopping scandal surrounding Michel Florio, continues to taint the once-trusted California Public Utilities Commission, and his publicly disgraced nonprofit employer, TURN, The Utility Reform Network.

Why the story is important:

Florio, a top Public Utilities Commissioner, is arguably one of the most powerful appointed bureaucrats in the State of California. Florio’s team of Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) and fellow Commissioners are empowered with the ability to approve electric rates for utility companies, and ultimately, the basic energy costs for EVERY California business and resident.  For this reason, it is imperative that Commissioners like Michel “Mike” Florio remain fair and impartial, yet an alarming series of memos between Florio and Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) suggest that Florio is favoring PG&E at the expense of taxpayers and ratepayers.

The controversial e-mails show that Florio had improper and overly-chummy contact Brian Cherry at PG&E for the express purpose of putting pro-utility Adminsitrative Law Judges and Commissioners on a pending PG&E rate case.

According to the article, PG&E’s vice president, Brian Cherry, communicated with Florio about getting judges favorable to PG&E. Florio replied that he was too busy to handle the case, but promised Cherry he would  “mentor” fellow Commissioner Carla J. Peterman on how to write the proposed decision. What’s more, Cherry wrote, Florio “even volunteered to do an alternate [decision] if we didn’t like Carla’s decision.”  The article also describes what could also be described as blatant and unlawful communications:

“An earlier Cherry email was part of hundreds released in recent months by the PUC and PG&E, detailing potentially improper contacts. In the most colorful one, Cherry briefed company executives on a 2010 dinner conversation, accompanied by “two bottles of good pinot” that he drank with PUC President Michael Peevey at Peevey’s Sonoma County coast vacation home.

According to Cherry, Peevey dispensed public relations advice to the company and sought contributions for a political campaign opposing an initiative to weaken the state’s efforts to curb global warming.”

Why the article reflects poorly on TURN:

Florio was a top attorney for TURN before he was appointed to the PUC.

Although the story does a good job of exposing evidence of improper judge-shopping  and improper and overly cozy relationships between the Public Utilities Commission and big utilities, it does not fully explore the alarmingly inappropriate relationships between so-called “consumer advocates” and seemingly corrupt public utility commissioners. Recent events suggest that TURN, The Utility Reform Network, has worked closely with Commissioners Michel Florio and Michael Peevey to increase the rates charged to customers of Southern California Edison.

Documentation of TURN’s specious claims with screen captures:

TURN’s stated mission is “lower bills” according to its Web site, yet TURN’s former employee — Mr. Florio — appears to have been caught red-handed in a team-effort with TURN to raise the rates of TURN’s constituents. It begs the question, “What was Florio doing to lower rates when he was employed at TURN?

Recent events on the San Onofre nuclear debacle suggest that TURN has actively participated with Southern California Edison and Commissioner Florio to decieve ratepayers into footing the bill for a multi-billion dollar bailout of the failed San Onofre Nuclear Reactor. In April of 2014, TURN, in cooperation with Florio and Public Utility Commission President Michael Peevey,  issued press releases and public statements claiming that ratpeyers would “get refunds” as the result of a proposed settlement.

The truth is that there will be no “refunds” associated with the San onofre debacle. The facts are that rates will increase as the result of an unlawful settlement proceeding orchestrated by TURN and Florio.

Screen captures of deceptive “refund” claims by TURN:

On April 24, 2014, the law firm of Aguirre & Severson LLP issued a press release and fact checker that exposed the truth about the phony refunds. TURN immediately changed its press releases to cover up its fraudulent claims.  Click here for a pdf document explaining the scam, with SCREEN CAPTURES showing how TURN quickly changed its refund story after it was publicly exposed as false by public advocates at the law firm of Aguirre & Severson LLP.

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