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Opinion - To Protect Ratepayers: Corporation Commission Must Adopt Judicial Code of Conduct
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11 August 2018   Rodney Glassman, Candidate for Corporation Commission

"You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, just attach it to a new wagon."

Rural Arizonans are only aware of the Arizona Corporation Commission because of bad things: the indictments, conflicts of interest, and resignations that have plagued the Commission for nearly a decade. And, of course, utility rate increases.  

Recent scandals have included: a commissioner forced to resign after being paid to lobby for an industry regulated by the commission; illegal drugs found in ACC offices; indictment of a member for giving rate increases to a utility paying the commissioners spouse; and most recently, a commissioner being questioned for championing a proposal that benefited a donor, who funded more than 50% of the commissioner’s election campaign. Arizona ratepayers deserve better!

That’s why longtime Republican elected officials like Secretary of State Michele Reagan, State Senator Karen Fann, State Representative Noel Campbell, County Supervisor Jack Smith and well-respected prosecutor, Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk are all supporting my campaign to restore integrity at the Arizona Corporation Commission. 

As a Major in the United States Air Force Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps Reserves, I subscribe to the Air Force Core Values of “Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do.” Without integrity, even my expertise in water, Masters of Business Administration, and PhD in Arid Land Resource Sciences would be irrelevant to my ability to contribute as a member of the Arizona Corporation Commission. The commission must begin with “Integrity First” by adopting the Arizona Code of Judicial Conduct, protecting ratepayers, and restoring credibility to our state’s most powerful, elected, regulatory body.

What is the Corporation Commission?

At Arizona’s statehood, it was determined that certain public services were so important to Arizona’s economy that they would be regulated by elected statewide officials (Commissioners); these public services are energy, water, telecommunications, pipelines, and trains. The core of the Commissioners’ job is to hear rate cases, where utilities come before the Commission, to ask for permission to adjust rates. As articulated in Article 15 of the Arizona Constitution, Corporation Commissioners are charged with analyzing proposals using a three-pronged test of reliability, resiliency, and safety. Commissioners are not supposed to be activists or advocates; rather, they are supposed to act as impartial, unbiased judges. Sadly, the simple constitutionally mandated duties of the Corporation Commission have been overshadowed by accusations of illegal, unethical, and sometimes simply incredulous behavior by Corporation Commissioners. 

Arizonans are sick of reading about scandals and pay-for-play schemes. When the Corporation Commission hears rate cases they are acting as judges; hearing evidence, applying the law, and making a decision. Restoring the public’s trust can be easily accomplished by adopting the same code of conduct followed by every other judge in Arizona. Arizonans deserve nothing less.

A Code of Ethics?

As an Eagle Scout, attorney, licensed real estate broker, member of the State Bar of Arizona, and Air Force Officer, I am no stranger to a variety of oaths and codes of conduct. The Arizona Code of Judicial Conduct stands tall as a time-tested, ethical guide for Arizona—it simply works.

Arizona Code of Judicial Conduct

The Arizona Code of Judicial Conduct establishes standards for all judges in Arizona, including elected Justices of the Peace. The Code’s preamble reads:

Judges should maintain the dignity of judicial office at all times and avoid both impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in their professional and personal lives. 

It is comprised of four canons which require judges to uphold and promote independence, integrity, and impartiality through their actions, not only while performing their duty but also while campaigning, and throughout their professional and civic activities.  

Why the Arizona Code of Judicial Conduct?

As the old saying goes, “You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, just attach it to a new wagon.” The Arizona Corporation Commission must lead by example and hold itself to the same code of conduct adopted by the Arizona Supreme Court. The judicial code embodies the highest standard of conduct of any code of ethics in our state, guards against behavior that creates the appearance of impropriety, and incorporates a clear system of redress when there are allegations of misconduct -- the voter created independent Commission on Judicial Conduct—which serves as a neutral arbiter in deciding whether or not a judge has violated the Code.  

Adopting the Arizona Code of Judicial Conduct will provide the commission with a thoughtful, time-tested, and universally-accepted guidepost while protecting ratepayers and restoring integrity to the Arizona Corporation Commission. To read my recommendation to the Corporation Docket in support of adopting the Arizona Code of Judicial Conduct please visit  www.rodneyglassman.com

Rodney Glassman is an attorney and Republican candidate for the Arizona Corporation Commission and can be reached at rodney@rodneyglassman.com.