PHOENIX — In a letter posted to the Arizona Corporation Commission’s online docket Thursday, Commissioner Andy Tobin expressed his concern with a series of roadblocks to his requests for transparent information from Johnson Utilities, a regulated monopoly.
The Corporation Commission is in its third week of evidentiary hearings related to allegations of billing, water and wastewater quality issues at Johnson Utilities. The water and wastewater utility company services 25,600 water and 35,000 wastewater customers in Pinal and Maricopa counties.
Tobin’s letter outlines numerous attempts to obtain records from Johnson Utilities in connection with those hearings. Tobin details how he issued a subpoena to the utility, initially on March 8, seeking correspondence between Johnson Utilities and the town of Queen Creek.
He also issued a public records request to the town of Queen Creek, seeking correspondence between Johnson Utilities and the town detailing their discussions of a potential sale of the water company.
Tobin’s letter explains that as the town of Queen Creek began delivering documents to the commission in response to his public records request, Johnson Utilities sued the town, filed an application for a temporary restraining order to prevent the town from releasing additional documents and obtained a court order setting an initial hearing in Superior Court.
Tobin’s letter further details how a Superior Court judge temporarily upheld the restraining order and effectively halted any further records coming to the commission.
“Johnson Utilities has thwarted our efforts for transparency during these hearings,” Tobin said. “It makes you wonder, what are they trying to hide?”
Tobin’s letter outlines the path these records requests have progressed through the Arizona court system, ending with the Court of Appeals granting a further stay.
“In other words, there is no end in sight as to when I will finally obtain access to these public records which the town of Queen Creek does not object to producing,” Tobin writes.
Tobin stated the matter is urgent because the delay of the Johnson Utility proceedings could potentially present life safety issues to the citizens of Pinal County as witnesses testify about sanitary sewer overflows, excessive odors from hydrogen sulfide levels and the inability to account for millions of dollars leaving the company on a monthly basis.
“We need to ensure all parties are afforded due process. That includes the utility, staff, intervenors and customers of Johnson Utilities,” said Tobin. “These records are important to that process.”