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PHOENIX — The Arizona Corporation Commission is easing up on Johnson Utilities after finally getting compliance on its orders, just a day before contemplating a move that could have significant consequences.

The commission has withdrawn its motion to hold Johnson Utilities in contempt of court because Johnson is now in compliance with the order issued by Pinal County Superior Court to follow an interim manager agreement.

The commission initially asked for the injunction because Johnson Utilities did not provide access to its financial systems as required by the interim manager agreement.

EPCOR, the company tasked with managing the utility until the ACC deems it unnecessary, previously terminated the interim manager agreement because Johnson did not hand over control of financial systems. After a hearing that upheld the injunction in Pinal County Superior Court, Johnson Utilities employees could have faced a large fine or even possibly jail time for obstructing the injunctive order and being held in contempt of court.

The utility was given a deadline of Aug. 27 to transfer control of its systems and met that deadline. Since then, it reportedly has continued to cooperate and allow EPCOR to run the utility, leading the commission to withdraw its motion for contempt.

The commission reserved its right to refile to hold Johnson in contempt if Johnson violates the terms of the injunction.

The commission also held its own contempt hearing to try and hold the utility in contempt for violating the interim manager order and is awaiting a decision. However, the penalty for this is much less than in Pinal Superior Court, just a $100 to $5,000 fine. This, as Johnson Utilities attorney Jeff Crockett noted during the hearing, is less than a day of attorney’s fees.

The commission is still considering whether to revoke Johnson’s certificates of convenience and necessity, which would take away its monopoly over developments in the San Tan Valley and Florence areas. That hearing is scheduled to take place Tuesday.


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