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PHOENIX — Johnson Utilities and employees of its subsidiary Hunt Management tried to convince the Arizona Corporation Commission that a large number of billing complaints from 2017 were invalid and that customers were charged correctly.

Stephanie Poulin of Hunt Management testified Wednesday at an evidentiary hearing before the commission that many complaints in 2017 to Johnson Utilities were due to bad publicity from an FBI investigation into owner George Johnson.

“There was some bad publicity in regards to the company and the owner of the company,” Poulin said. “Things really stirred up on social media. A lot of ‘now-is-the-time-to-file-a-complaint’ things were going around.”

When asked why so many people showed up at the hearings earlier in the year in San Tan Valley, Poulin said she was surprised as well. Poulin said she was surprised and checked the accounts later and saw that many had not brought their complaints to JU.

Poulin also said that customers often did not understand a Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District fee increase, money the utility has to pay to the state.

“CAGRD was a big deal,” Poulin said. “A lot of customers were like, ‘Oh, my water bill has never been this high.’ ”

Poulin was also adamant that employees would never retaliate against customers who complained, especially under her supervision.

She was, however, not aware of the defamation lawsuits that had occurred previously against three of the company’s customers: Emily Hughes, Bambi Sanquest and Christie Fisher.

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