Questions regarding contacts between Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) staff members and representatives of regulated utilities have created a chaotic situation for the regulatory agency. On September 8, 2009, the commission's Director of Strategic Analysis and Governmental Affairs, Ryder S. Rudd, resigned after a review of his attendance earlier in the year at a Kentucky Derby party at the home of a Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) executive. Mr. Rudd stated that he had paid for the food and drink he consumed at the party, but the commission's inspector general found that he had used “poor judgment.” The inspector general said he could not determine whether Mr. Rudd violated PSC rules by attending the event.
During the week, it also was revealed that several PSC staff members had given their private BlackBerry® personal identification numbers (PIN) to an FPL representative. The use of a PIN enables a person to send or receive messages on the handheld device without going through the state e-mail system. The First Amendment Foundation, a media-funded organization that monitors compliance with Florida's public records laws, commented that the use of PINs may allow officials to communicate about public business without creating a public record and may allow inappropriate ex parte communication between PSC staff and utilities with issues before the commission.
Three commissioners' staff aides have admitted to sharing their PINs with FPL representatives. One of those aides resigned, and two have been placed on administrative leave. On September 10, 2009, Commission Chair Matthew Carter ordered that all PSC messaging systems other than email be disabled pending further action by the full commission.
In the wake of these developments, Public Service Commissioner Nancy Argenziano requested that the statewide prosecutor convene a grand jury to review “the entire regulatory scheme.” Senate President Pro Tem Mike Fasano (R-New Port Richey) urged Commissioner Carter to postpone action on rate cases currently before the commission, and requested that Senate President Jeff Atwater (R-North Palm Beach) convene Senate hearings on the commission's ethical issues. On September 8, 2009, Governor Charlie Crist said he was “monitoring the situation.”