The Association of U S West Retirees



Former PUC head broke no laws, independent investigation finds
Investigators concluded that the former chairman's relationship with an attorney for AT&T might have created the appearance of a conflict of interest.
By Mark Brunswick
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Wednesday, May 03, 2006

An independent investigation has determined that the former chairman of the state Public Utility Commission probably broke no law in his relationship with a telephone attorney but that he might have created an appearance of impropriety by giving her gifts and talking with her on the telephone for hours.  Greg Scott's relationship with AT&T attorney Mary Tribby "certainly raised red flags," but there is no evidence that they discussed material issues during pending cases, a report released Tuesday concluded.

"There is reasonable cause to believe that this undisclosed close friendship might well have resulted in a conflict of interest for Scott.  It must certainly have been difficult to simply overlook this relationship in his role as a decisionmaker with the commission," the report concludes.

Scott's relationship with Tribby is the subject of scrutiny by AT&T competitor Qwest, which has suggested that the relationship might have affected PUC decisions that adversely affected Qwest, including a record $25.9 million fine assessed against Qwest by the PUC.

The PUC, the state's utility regulatory board, separately requested an investigation into Scott and Tribby's relationship by two independent investigators.

The report documents the relationship between them, which included dinners alone and extensive communications.  While both acknowledged that their relationship was both professional and personal, they denied that there was a sexual relationship.  The report said there is no evidence to substantiate or refute their denials.

The report said Scott and Tribby were aware of the prohibition on what is known as ex parte communications, and they deny that they talked about issues being considered by the commission.

The investigators concluded, though, that there is reasonable cause to believe that Scott's actions affected public confidence in the commission.

Doug Kelley, Scott's attorney, said his client was pleased with the conclusion that there was no ex parte communication, since that was the only allegation that could carry a penalty with it.

The PUC is likely to rule on the case later this month Executive Secretary Burl Haar said.

Mark Brunswick 651-222-1636