You would think that a seat on the Georgia Public Service Commission would not stir much controversy. Some people probably don’t even know we have a Public Service Commission, much less candidates for seats on it.
Jim Powell is seeking to replace Angela Speir as the commission member from District 4. Speir, a Republican, is not running for re-election. Powell is running as a Democrat and if successful, would be the only Democrat on the PSC.
You may be aware that last week the Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs announced that it was cutting the funding for the Consumer Utility Counsel which represents the little guy before the PSC. Due to a budget shortfall caused by our troubled economy, the Governor asked all state agencies and departments to cut their budgets by 6% (Education was 2%, I think) across the board. Well, when it came to the lawyers for the ordinary citizen, the cut wasn’t 6%, it was 100%.
I think it was last year that the PSC cut back on the part of its staff that represented consumers’ interests in opposing rate increases. I tried to find something on this, but could not, so I could be wrong, confused or just plain stupid, but my point is that it seems consumers and their interests don’t get much consideration from or at the PSC, or at least less and less.
But, Jim Powell is involved in much more than a campaign for a seat on the PSC. He is also having to fight with Georgia Secretary of State, Karen Handel. After Powell qualified as a candidate, a question was raised as to whether or not he was a resident of District 4. Now, that is something the Secretary of State is and should be concerned with and Handel did what she should have done. She referred the issue to a hearing before an ALJ (Administrative Law Judge). The ALJ found that Powell was a resident of District 4. Handel disagreed and overruled the ALJ. Well, you know what happened next. Powell had to appeal the matter to the Superior Court of Fulton County which ruled in Powell’s favor. Powell wins! Well, not exactly.
Handel has now appealed the Superior Court ruling to the Supreme Court of Georgia. I have interviewed Karen several times and I am a little surprised. She seemed to be a practical person with some common sense, but she did her job when she referred the matter to an ALJ for a due process hearing. Arbitrarily overruling the ALJ and then pursuing an adverse decision by the Superior Court gives the distinct impression of partisanship and is a waste of taxpayer money.
Handel’s conduct is even more questionable when you consider that she apparently made the decision to disqualify him on the Thursday before the primary election on Tuesday and did not even tell Powell he was being disqualified. Powell found out by rumor over the weekend and had to hire a lawyer and run to the courthouse on Monday to stay on the ballot. Sleazy Karen, pure sleaze. We deserve better than that.
Hang in there Jim.