On October 1, 2009, Gov. Crist appointed two new members to the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC), effective January 1, 2010. Gov. Crist selected David Klement of Bradenton and Benjamin “Steve” Stevens of Pensacola from the list of six nominated by the PSC Nominating Council. By appointing Mr. Klement and Mr. Stevens, the governor also was declining to reappoint current PSC Chair Matthew Carter and current Commissioner Katrina McMurrian, both of whom were on the nominating council's list.
Mr. Klement is affiliated with the Institute for Public Policy and Leadership at the Sarasota-Manatee campus of the University of South Florida. He spent most of his career in various editorial positions with The Bradenton Herald. He told reporters that he emphasized his lack of connections with utilities or the regulatory process when Gov. Crist interviewed him for the job.
Mr. Stevens is an accountant who previously served as budget director of the Escambia County Sheriff's Office.
Then-Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Commissioners Carter and McMurrian to the PSC in 2006 for terms that expire on January 1, 2010. On October 5, 2009, Commissioner McMurrian announced that she was resigning from the PSC, effective immediately.
In recent months, the PSC has been the focus of controversies surrounding contact between PSC members and staff and companies that had rate cases pending before the PSC. According to observers, Gov. Crist's refusal two reappoint two sitting commissioners and his decision to replace them with newcomers to the utility regulation process may simply be an effort to address the ethical issues or it may signal his desire to push the commission in what he considers a more consumer-friendly direction. He stated that he did not expect the new commissioners to be popular with regulated companies. When making the appointments, Gov. Crist said, “The entire utility establishment is not happy with your governor today. That's OK. I don't work for them.”
These changes to the PSC are occurring while two major rate cases are pending. Both Florida Power & Light Company and Progress Energy Florida, Inc. are seeking PSC approval for rate increases of approximately 30 percent. The day after announcing his commission appointments, Gov. Crist urged the PSC to postpone a final decision on the rate increases until after the two new commissioners take office.