Mayor Vincent C. Gray

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December 08, 2011

Mayor Gray Urges Council to Approve PSC Nominee after Expert Panel Finds No Barrier to Her Serving Effectively 

Panel Appointed by Attorney General Irv Nathan Says Recusals Due to Elizabeth Noel’s Previous Service as People’s Counsel Would Not Hinder Commission’s Work

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(WASHINGTON, DC) – Mayor Vincent C. Gray today urged the D.C. Council to move swiftly to approve his nomination of Elizabeth Noel to serve on the District’s Public Service Commission (PSC) after a panel of independent experts filed a report unanimously affirming that her previous service as People’s Counsel would not interfere with her serving effectively on the PSC.

“I am pleased that this highly regarded committee of outside experts has concluded unequivocally that Ms. Noel could serve as an effective member of the Commission,” Mayor Gray said. “I urge the Council to review the committee’s report as quickly as possible and confirm this highly qualified nominee to this important position to help ensure that consumers in the District of Columbia get a fair deal.”

Mayor Gray first nominated Ms. Noel in September. After Councilmembers and representatives from Pepco raised questions about whether her previous position as an advocate for the District’s residents in disputes with utilities would force her to recuse herself from too many cases before the PSC, the Office of the Attorney General, with the Mayor’s support, appointed an outside panel of experts to study and report on the issue.

The panel was composed of Patricia M. Worthy, law professor at Howard University and a former Chair of the PSC; Agnes Alexander Yates, another former PSC Chair; and Thomas D. Morgan, a professor at the George Washington University Law School and renowned national expert on ethics issues. Asked by the Attorney General to address whether “someone who previously served zealously as People’s Counsel and participated in that capacity in a large number of cases, some of which are still open, [could] serve effectively as a judicious, productive Commissioner of the Public Service Commission?”, the Committee unanimously responded that: “Our answer is an unqualified yes” and provided a detailed analysis in its report, which has been transmitted to the Council.

The committee concluded that although Ms. Noel would be required to recuse herself in “all open cases in which she participated personally and substantially as People’s Counsel,” she would still be eligible to participate in more than 40 percent of cases currently pending before the PSC and in most new cases.

The committee also found that the other two members of the PSC would not be hindered in carrying out their work in cases where Ms. Noel was forced to recuse herself because, historically, virtually all PSC decisions have been rendered unanimously. Therefore, the committee concluded, “the Commission will continue to be able to perform its work without a problem.”