Utility Regulator Bribery

Developer George Johnson leaves federal court after being arraigned on bribery and fraud charges June 7 in Phoenix.

PHOENIX — The owner of a Pinal County utility company has been subpoenaed to testify in front of state regulators.

The Arizona Corporation Commission ordered George Johnson of Johnson Utilities in San Tan Valley to appear for questioning at 10 a.m. Thursday.

The testimony will concern Johnson’s continued ownership in the utility and his involvement in the operations and decision-making process as manager.

Failure to appear before the commission would place him in contempt of the commission and could lead to further legal penalties.

The commission has focused recently on Johnson Utilities, holding several hearings in San Tan Valley to hear of customer complaints regarding the safety of the water, the chemicals being released by the company’s wastewater plants and alleged improper billing practices.

The ACC also has been looking into allegations that Johnson has not in fact taken a leave from his managerial duties while he faces charges of bribing Gary Pierce, a former member of the commission.

The ACC received an anonymous tip that he continues to visit the Johnson Utilities office on a daily basis, which was confirmed by the company. The company did not deny that George Johnson continues to manage the business, according to the order to show cause.

There have been 530 customer service complaints formally filed with the ACC from Jan. 1 to March 2 on billing, quality of service and disconnection or termination of service.

This all led the commission to approve an order to show cause, forcing Johnson Utilities to legally demonstrate why an interim manager should not be appointed in a hearing scheduled for Thursday. Now, Johnson is obliged to also testify that day.