The Public Integrity Alliance (PIA) has asked Arizona Corporation Commission member Bob Burns to recuse himself from future votes regarding the Arizona Public Service Company (APS) after Burns publicly declared he intended to vote against APS not based on the actual issues raised, but on the identity of the parties.In response to Burns’ declaration, the PIA sent a letter to the commissioner and issued a statement on April 26.
“Although the Public Integrity Alliance has held Commissioner Burns in high regard for several years and understands his desire to use all available means to accomplish his regulatory goals, his most recent comments call into question his impartiality on votes that are unrelated to his dissatisfaction with APS,” the statement read. “Given the unambiguous nature of his comments, recusal rather than retraction appears to be the best path forward.”
“He (Burns) said he is going to vote against anything APS unless they comply with his request that they disclose their political spending,” PIA President Tyler Montague told the Arizona Business Daily.
Montague said he believes Burns’ mission is noble because APS, which is entangled in a dispute with solar companies, should disclose its political spending.
“I think that is a fine request but these companies are going to be spending a lot of money in this war before it is over,” Montague said. “I think the way out is for commissioners to put their head down, do their job and be objective and that is not what he is doing here.”
Regardless of his personal feelings, Burns has a duty to be impartial and evaluate cases based on their merit, Montague said, adding that if Burns intends to vote against an issue simply because it is “outside of the scope of his statutory responsibilities,” then it creates a problem.
“We don’t think any public officials should be doing this kind of thing,” Montague said. “We respect Burns, he has a great long-standing reputation as a person of integrity and his quest, I’m sure he feels strongly about, is also an issue of integrity in his mind and they are just not compatible.”
Burns has received many accolades for his dedication and public service to the people of Arizona for almost 30 years.
In March, Burns wife of over 52 years, Gayle, resigned as a member of the Central Arizona Water Conservation District (CAWCD) Board of Directors amid growing concern that her position posed a possible conflict of interest for her husband as commissioner.
“Again, with a lot of respect for Bob Burns, we are not trying to trash the man," Montague said. "We are not anti-Bob Burns, we don’t plan on launching a political campaign against Bob Burns. We just call the foul here as we see it."
Since sending the letter, PIA has not heard from Burns. So PIA has no way of knowing his thoughts on the letter.
“It is kind of hard to walk this back," Montague said. "He has already displayed a bias. It puts him in a tough spot. We’ll be observing."
The PIA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing policies that promote ethics, integrity, transparency and accountability in government; it promotes the protection of voting rights and the integrity of the electoral process.