MaryPIRG files suit for PSC meeting records

Group calls for four commissioners who attended closed session on BGE to be disqualified from two cases


The Maryland Public Interest Research Group filed a lawsuit yesterday demanding records from a closed meeting held by members of the state Public Service Commission in the governor's office last month to discuss the pending 72 percent increase in BGE rates.

The group, which lobbies on utility issues, is also calling for the four commissioners who attended the meeting to be disqualified from involvement in two pending cases before the PSC, one dealing with Constellation Energy Group's pending merger with FPL Group Inc., and the other challenging the commission's rate mitigation plan.

The complaint, filed in Baltimore Circuit Court, also calls on the judge to void any decisions the commissioners made during the March 14 meeting.

MaryPIRG Executive Director Brad Heavner sent a letter to the commission requesting the minutes last month, but he said he never got a response.

"We want to know what happened, and the court would have the authority to rule on whether any decisions they made should stand or be changed based on the fact that it was done outside of the proper process," Heavner said.

PSC spokeswoman Christine Nizer said commission officials have not reviewed the complaint and could not comment on it.

Commission Chairman Kenneth D. Schisler and members Allen Freifeld, Karen Smith and Charles R. Boutin met with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s chief of staff, James C. "Chip" DiPaula Jr., on March 14 after Schisler and DiPaula had what both describe as a chance encounter in the halls of the State House.

Freifeld, Smith and Boutin were all in Annapolis that day to talk to legislators about BGE-related bills.

The fifth commissioner, Harold D. Williams - an appointee of Gov. Parris N. Glendening - was not informed of the meeting and later protested his exclusion.

Maryland law generally requires that when a majority of a public body meets to discuss official business, it must give notice and open the meeting to the public.

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