It took the former CEO of APS roughly 10 years to answer questions at the Arizona Corporation Commission and it’s taken less than one month for his successor to do the same.
Jeff Guldner, the current boss of APS – and its parent company Pinnacle West – has accepted the invitation from commissioners to attend the December Open Meeting on Dec. 10 and 11 to answer questions about the rate comparison tool that resulted in thousands of APS customers being put on the wrong plan. Guldner will be accompanied by APS staff, similarly to his predecessor, Don Brandt, when he fielded a variety of questions in September.
The issue being addressed stems from APS recognizing last month that roughly 12,000 customers were misinformed about being on the most cost-effective plan. In fact, they were on a plan that costs more than intended due to errors with the APS “rate comparison tool.”
APS already vowed to give credit to the thousands of affected customers, but it still took months to acknowledge the problem, and Commissioners Boyd Dunn and Justin Olson want answers as to why.
In their respective letters to their peers, both commissioners requested Guldner come in to address this issue. Dunn was not impressed with how the utility handled things.
“I am appalled with the repeated ‘problems’ that have arisen from a seemingly simple Commission directive,” Dunn wrote in his Nov. 20 letter. He requested that Chairman Bob Burns put APS’ rate review on the December agenda for a hearing and potential vote.
In Olson’s letter, he took things even further than Dunn. Olson called for an independent investigation into APS to see if the utility misled the roughly 12,000 customers. He said he thought crediting back customers was a good start, but more needs to be done.
Olson said he wants to ensure that all customers are receiving credible and accurate information and he wants an investigation to get into the “exact issue with the rate comparison tool.”
Burns told Arizona Capitol Times that he still expects Guldner to show up at the January Open Meeting as well.
I still want him to commit to stop spending on political races, Burns said. The chairman previously wanted Guldner to make that commitment during the Brandt hearing in September, but at the time Guldner said he could not make that promise since he was not yet the CEO. Now, Guldner has yet to say anything one way or another.
Suzanne Trevino, an APS spokeswoman, told Capitol Times via email that “this is an important discussion between APS leadership and the Arizona Corporation Commission, and Jeff Guldner has already committed to having that conversation.”
The Arizona Advocacy Network also stepped in on Guldner’s first day as CEO on Nov. 18, demanding he discontinue APS’ efforts to contribute to political campaigns. The progressive group started a petition saying that APS has lost all public trust due to its large campaign contributions and trust can be restored if political spending stops.
“For years, APS was among the most trusted institutions in Arizona. As you are aware, that is no longer the case,” the petition reads.
A fourth commissioner has also requested to hear from APS officials in January.
Commissioner Sandra Kennedy wants answers on Brandt’s new consulting contract with Pinnacle West totaling nearly $2 million for one year of work.
Brandt is set to make $25,000 for 11 months and nearly $1.5 million for the final month of a one-year contract with Pinnacle West. Kennedy wants all documents relating to the agreement and has more questions she wants answered.
The lone Democrat on the commission was notably a thorn in Brandt’s side during his questioning at the Corp Comm special meeting in September, which devolved into a shouting match. She was visibly upset at Brandt’s answers and refused to hear any response if it didn’t come from the then-CEO.
Kennedy wants the company to provide information about the scope of Brandt’s consulting duties and other consulting agreements Pinnacle West has made since 2014. Kennedy gave Pinnacle West a deadline of Dec. 13, to not only provide answers to the questions she’s asking, but also to agree to appear in January.
And if she doesn’t get her answers voluntarily before then, Burns said his colleague will issue subpoenas.
Correction: A previous version of this story mistakenly said the APS rate review would be on the December agenda. This has been corrected.