Negotiations fail with PSC head

Schisler will not step down, Miller says

firing is a possibility

January 26, 2007|By Laura Smitherman and Justin Fenton | Laura Smitherman and Justin Fenton,sun reporter

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said yesterday that he tried but failed to negotiate an "amicable" deal under which Kenneth D. Schisler would leave his post as chairman of the Public Service Commission, the regulatory body whose members have been at loggerheads with the General Assembly since last year over rising electricity rates.

"I like him as a person; I didn't like his policies as a member of the PSC," Miller said of Schisler. "I tried to broker an amicable resolution, and that did not fall on fruitful ground. It's not possible at this time."

Ralph S. Tyler, the former Baltimore city solicitor who now works as Gov. Martin O'Malley's chief counsel, said yesterday that the administration might be inclined to fire Schisler, but that no final decision has been made on the matter. He also said the administration gave Schisler the option to resign, an offer that's still open.

"We're not going to be brokering any deal with Mr. Schisler," said Tyler. "We would probably be moving forward with termination proceedings."

Schisler could not be reached for comment.

The PSC became a lightning rod over its handling of Baltimore Gas and Electric's proposed 72 percent electricity rate increase. Some lawmakers alleged that panel members had become too close to the companies they oversee. Schisler, in particular, was criticized after the disclosure of e-mails revealed he had discussed internal PSC policy with a utility company lobbyist.

The General Assembly attempted last year to fire the commissioners through legislation, but Schisler sued to keep his job and the law was struck down by Maryland's highest court.

Nonetheless, O'Malley pledged on the campaign trail to replace the PSC members, who are appointed to five-year terms. Maryland law says a governor can remove commissioners for "incompetence or misconduct."

Miller said that O'Malley is "not in the mood to resolve this amicably" and that the governor might seek to "clean house."

"He thinks they made some serious errors in judgment in dealing with the utility rates," Miller said, "and he wants a whole new start."

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