Indiana's top utility regulator sent a private email last year to a top executive at Duke Energy Corp., recommending "confidentially, just between you and me" that the utility hire his personal choice as president of its Indiana operations.
James Atterholt, chairman of the
IndianaUtility Regulatory Commission, wrote that the hiring decision was "none of my business," but he hoped the company would consider his candidate, then a lobbyist for Duke.
The Indianapolis Star obtained the email, along with scores of others to and from Atterholt, in an open-records request and from other public documents. In addition to lobbying Duke on a personnel matter, Atterholt:
Met privately for lunch and dinner with Duke executives, including James Rogers, the company's chairman and chief executive, while the company had numerous issues pending before the commission.
Is characterized in an email by a Duke executive as giving his blessing to the company's controversial hiring of the commission's top lawyer and chief administrative law judge, Scott Storms.
Regularly sent warm notes to Duke executives, inviting them to call him "at any time" for help . . .
Atterholt's defense of his unethical conduct is incredibly weak. "It is important to build relationships and to foster an environment where these views are respected and heard," he wrote in an e-mail to the Star. How could he possibly think he can keep an arm's length role as the head of the IURC if he's lobbying them to hire his friends in key jobs and dining with the company's executives? It's none of his business who the company employs, and he should know the only thing that can be read into his recommendations is that he will view the company's issues more favorably if they hire his friends for jobs at the utility. "I think it's another indicator of how flawed the system is," said Kerwin Olson, interim executive director of Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, a longtime critic of Duke and the IURC. "The line between a regulator and utilities is so blurred it's almost nonexistent."
For those of you holding out hope that the U.S. Attorney's office in Indianapolis is going to do anything about the fact that the utilities have the IURC in their back pocket, you can forget it. The Duke Energy folks have Joe Hogsett in their back pocket. Hogsett is good friends with Duke's CEO Jim Rogers and its former top executive, Jim Turner. They have supported his past political campaigns and he's not about to go after his good friends. That leaves Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry. Yeah, don't hold your breath.
I hope John Russell has requested all of Carolene Mays' e-mails. Everyone knows she was appointed to the IURC as a favor to her uncle, Bill Mays, a political backer of Daniels who is a director for Vectren Corporation, among other things. You may recall that another Mays relative got busted by the SEC for insider trading while Mays was serving on the board of First Indiana Corporation because she got tipped off by someone about the bank's pending acquisition by M&I. Naturally, no criminal charges were brought in the case. Mays told the IBJ's Greg Andrews at the time, "You would be shocked by the number of people” he was asked by SEC investigators to identify from a list of people suspected of insider trading that he knew. “It reads like a who’s who of Indianapolis.” Mays also serves on Wellpoint's board of directors.
If you haven't figured this out yet, you don't get appointed to the IURC unless you are approved by the utility industry. That's been true under Republican and Democratic governors alike. Why the news media in this state has been so slow to come to that conclusion is anyone's guess.