Gov. Charlie Crist weighed in on the controversy surrounding the Florida Public Service Commission.

In recent weeks, with major rate increases for Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) and Progress Energy Florida pending, the commission has been operating under an ethical cloud. One staff member resigned over his attendance at a Kentucky Derby party sponsored by an FPL executive, and two staff members were suspended and one reassigned because of possible improper communication with another FPL executive. Senate President Pro Tem Mike Fasano (R-New Port Richey) had recommended that the commission delay action on the rate filings until after possible Senate hearings on the ethics issues.

In a discussion with reporters on September 14, 2009, Gov. Crist urged the commission to go forward. He also said that votes on the rate proposals would have an impact on his decisions regarding the reappointment or replacement of two commissioners. The terms of Commission Chair Matthew Carter and Commissioner Katrina McMurrian expire on January 1, 2010. Gov. Crist said that the outcome of the rate cases before the commission will provide him with “a better handle on who to appoint or reappoint.” He continued, “I'm trying to appoint members that will be sympathetic to the people and the economic challenge they're facing.” The Public Service Commission Nominating Council has given Gov. Crist six nominations, including Commissioners Carter and McMurrian, for the vacancies that will occur in 2010.

Commissioner McMurrian did not comment beyond saying, “He's the governor.” Commissioner Carter said that he did not feel threatened, but added, “No one should tell the commission how to vote. I don't have the luxury of deciding a case before it's over. That would be illegal. And I'm not going to get into a war of words with the governor.”

Making his position on the rate proposals clear, Gov. Crist said, “Reducing the rates reduces the rates, and it seems to me that the people deserve a break now more than ever. And so that's what I've encouraged and I continue to encourage.”