PUC chair calls for investigation after anonymous complaint

PUC Chair calls for investigation after anonymous complaint
Published: Jul. 11, 2016 at 10:21 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 12, 2016 at 10:14 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission is calling for a state Attorney General investigation into what he says is a "smear" campaign against interim PUC commissioner Tom Gorak.

Chair Randy Iwase said it's part of an attempt to derail the commission's investigation into NextEra Energy's buyout of Hawaiian Electric Co.

"This is unprecedented ... It has no purpose other than to try to influence the outcome of the merger decision and or to cast aspersion and smear the good name of the newly appointed commissioner," said Iwase.

Iwase is upset about a 10-page draft complaint for the Supreme Court's Office of Disciplinary Council, accusing Gorak of violating legal ethics while serving as the PUC's top lawyer. He said it's partly based on information from PUC proceedings that are supposed to be confidential.

Several sources said the document has not been sent to the ODC.

The document alleged that Gorak and Iwase iced out Commissioner Lorraine Akiba and former board member Michael Champley and denied them access to staff and legal advice.

It also claims that Gorak has a conflict of interest that should prevent him from voting on the NextEra-HECO merger because he served as a challenging "litigator" or advocate during the hearings.

"Gorak's actions expose the commission to potential liability ... as a result of his assuming multiple conflicting roles," the anonymous complaint said.

Iwase wouldn't respond to the specific allegations.

"I don't think I should dignify what's in that unsigned, smear complaint with any kind of response," he said.

Meanwhile, state senators who are questioning Gorak's appointment are discussing whether to call a special session to vote on his confirmation before the PUC makes a decision on the NextEra-HECO deal.

"We take it seriously the advise and consent part and the public should too. Because you want to vet somebody before they've been appointed, not afterward," said state Sen. Sam Slom (R) Hawaii Kai.

Other senate sources said there may not be enough support to hold a special session.

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