Nom­i­nee for util­ity reg­u­la­tor de­feated

Op­po­nents cite Noel’s tem­per­a­ment, re­cusal rate as panel nixes Gray’s pick

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - BY TOM HOW­ELL JR.

A sharply di­vided D.C. Coun­cil com­mit­tee re­jected Mayor Vin­cent C. Gray’s nom­i­nee to a three-mem­ber com­mis­sion that over­sees public util­i­ties, cit­ing her tem­per­a­ment and the need to re­cuse her­self from more than half of the cur­rent caseload.

The 3-2 vote Thurs­day by the Com­mit­tee on Public Ser­vices and Con­sumer Af­fairs ef­fec­tively kills the nom­i­na­tion of El­iz­a­beth Noel to the D.C. Public Ser­vice Com­mis­sion, de­spite vo­cal sup­port­ers who say she is the tena­cious ad­vo­cate the city needs to reg­u­late the elec­tric, nat­u­ral gas and tele­phone com­pa­nies that serve the Dis­trict.

Com­mit­tee Chair­man Yvette M. Alexan­der, Ward 7 Demo­crat, and other mem­bers were quick to praise Ms. Noel for her work as the Peo­ple’s Coun­sel — an ad­vo­cate for qual­ity ser­vice from public util­i­ties and their eq­ui­table treat­ment of con­sumers — from 1991 to 2010, but they could not over­come a spe­cial com­mit­tee’s re­port from the D.C. at­tor­ney gen­eral that said Ms. Noel had to re­cuse her­self from al­most 60 per­cent of cur­rent cases be­cause of her pre­vi­ous clashes with util­ity com­pa­nies, specif­i­cally Pepco.

Pepco of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing re­gion Pres­i­dent Thomas N. Gra­ham, at­tended the markup to “mon­i­tor the process.”

“Let me be ab­so­lutely clear, that my hes­i­ta­tion to the con­fir­ma­tion of Ms. Noel is in no way in­flu­enced by any out­side party,” Ms. Alexan­der said, not­ing pub­licly paid em­ploy­ees should be able to per­form their du­ties “more than 40 per­cent of the time.”

Coun­cil mem­ber Phil Men­del­son, at-large Demo­crat, said he holds Ms. Noel in high re­gard and has sup­ported her in the past, so her nom­i­na­tion marked one of the “more un­com­fort­able is­sues I’ve had to vote on.”

ROD LAMKEY JR./THE WASHINGTON TIMES

PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY ROD LAMKEY JR./THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Top: Jim Mcgrath, chair­man of the Tenants Ad­vo­cacy Coali­tion, ex­presses his sup­port Thurs­day for the nom­i­na­tion of Betty Noel to the D.C. Public Ser­vice Com­mis­sion, out­side of the John A. Wil­son Build­ing. Above: Mr. Mcgrath’s pleas fell on deaf ears from D.C. Coun­cil mem­bers Yvette M. Alexan­der (cen­ter), of Ward 7, and Phil Men­del­son (right), at large, both of whom voted against her.

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