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AG seeking Bitter Smith removal from Corp Comm post

Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed suit this morning to toss state utility regulator Susan Bitter Smith from her office.

Brnovich contends Susan Bitter Smith is “ineligible to serve” as a member of the Arizona Corporation Commission. He wants the Arizona Supreme Court to order her removed.

The action is based on state law which says that members of the commission cannot have an “official relation” with any entity regulated by the panel. And he said Bitter Smith is a lobbyist for two affiliates of Cox Communications.

Bitter Smith has said she argues solely for the cable side of the business which is not subject to commission regulation. But Brnovich said the company offers bundled service which includes telephone service which the commission does regulate.

Brnovich also cites Bitter Smith’s role – and $150,000 salary – as executive director of the Southwest Cable Communications Association, an organization that also includes companies that offer phone service regulated by the commission. He said that violates another section of law which prohibits regulators from having a “pecuniary interest” in regulated companies.

The attorney general said the legal problems would not be solved if Bitter Smith gave up all of the conflicts. Brnovich said the law prohibited her from even running for office in 2012 while she had the positions, effectively making her election illegal.

If the high court agrees, Gov. Doug Ducey would appoint a replacement to serve out the balance of her term which ends at the end of 2016.

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