My fellow New Mexico voters, I request you vote "yes" for Amendment 1 on your ballot. Why? To reduce too-frequent Public Regulation Commission corruption and incompetence.
Since 1998 five powerful PRC commissioners at $90,000 a year have been selected by voters in five separate state districts. The PRC now regulates demanding complex issues in state transportation, utilities, telecoms, and pipeline safety. Self-serving, unregulated expressions of competence are required to qualify. Yet political skills in each respective district is the ultimate selection criteria, not technical competence. The PRC is a down-ballot race. The average voter knows little or nothing about the district PRC candidate.
Many PRC commissioners have been excellent, informed and unbiased. Unfortunately, there has been a disproportionate number of reported scandals among PRC commissioners. See http://www.energycorrespondent.com/tag/jerome-block-sr/. Unreported are other conflicts of interest and incompetence.
During my 45-year legal career I had frequent contact with the PRC regarding its then regulation of the insurance industry (a PRC jurisdiction since lost). Most relevant was suing the PRC commissioners for wrongfully firing Don Letherer, the Superintendent of Insurance, because he refused to be an obedient, unethical puppy dog for three individual commissioners. I proved three of the five commissioners had improper motives for voting to fire Mr. Letherer. The case settled for about $600,000 in damages, fees, and costs. One of those three commissioners was Jerome Block Sr. His son, Jerome Block Jr, followed his father as the elected PRC commissioner but was forced to resign after issues with drug use, misuse of public funds and eventually, felony convictions.
Amendment 1 seeks to eliminate PRC corruption and incompetence through rigorous, transparent gubernatorial appointments. The present and future governors will appoint three qualified PRC commissioners, only after they have been vetted and recommended by a majority vote of a committee of non-gubernatorial appointed authorities selected by political officials from both parties.
Two of the three PRC commissioners must be from another party. The central argument against Amendment 1 is that voters in five different districts can better prevent conflicts of interest, corruption, and incompetence, rather than the recommendation committee. The PRC’s sordid 22-year history proves that is wishful thinking.
Eric Sedillo Jeffries is a retired Albuquerque trial attorney