Utility regulator Tom Forese to head Arizona Corporation Commission

Dive Brief:

  • The Arizona Corporation Commission selected Commissioner Tom Forese as its new chairman, replacing Doug Little. The change was made Tuesday, as the commission swore in three winners from last year's election. 
  • Republicans Robert Burns, Andy Tobin and Boyd Dunn won ACC seats in November; Burns and Tobin were already serving on the commission, while Dunn won a vacant seat left by outgoing Commissioner Bob Stump.
  • The commission this week also appointed Ted Vogt as executive director. Vogt has a long political career in the state and most recently worked with a lobbying group providing consulting for legislative, sales, and business. 

Dive Insight:

It has been a contentious few years at the Arizona commission, with debates over solar policy, squabbles over political campaigning and election funding, as well as conflicts of interest.

Former head of the commission Susan Bitter Smith announced in 2015 she would step down due to controversy surrounding her role at a cable group, after the Arizona Attorney General's Office filed a petition to remove her from office.

This summer, Burns pressed for an inquiry into election funding after allegations of dark money overshadowed the 2014 election. And two years ago, a nonprofit group, the Checks and Balances Project, said it uncovered text messages showing close ties between former ACC Commissioner Bob Stump and major utility Arizona Public Service Co. (APS). At the time, Stump said the group cherry picked text messages to twist the story. 

Little and Forese have also been in the public eye over allegations of dark money from APS funding independent groups supporting their campaigns in 2014. APS has neither denied or confirmed the accusations. 

Now after Forese was selected to head the commission, The Arizona Republic reports he has vowed to change the course of  the commission. "There has been significant criticism of this body over the past few years," Forese said Tuesday. "Some of it deserved, some of it not. Now is the time to reform the commission."

Forese said his priorities include bringing more accountability to the commission, in the form of a 10-year audit, and implementing a code of ethics. He also said the state needs to attract and develop new technologies to further grow its economy.

New Executive Director Vogt previously served as Director of the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services, was vice-chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, and also served as state representative from 2011 to 2013.

Additionally, the ACC named Timothy La Sota acting general counsel and acting director of the commission's Legal Division. La Sota has been an attorney for the past 16 years and has advised governmental bodies on Arizona and federal law.

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Filed Under: Regulation & Policy
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