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Breeze - Courier, Taylorville, Illinois

$149 million in refunds demanded from Peoples Energy

Friday, February 25, 2005
Page 18

Springfield, Ill.  (AP) --  Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office has said state utility regulators violated Illinois' open meeting law when they attended a private lunch with Peoples Energy executives last month.

Illinois Commerce Commission chairman Ed Hurley was informed this week by a Madigan attorney that the commission may have broken the state's Open Meetings Act because two of the four ICC members were present at the lunch.

Madigan's office also said it may have been illegal for Hurley to have allowed the Peoples executives to purchase the lunch even though Hurley reimbursed them with a personal check.

"I think my hand has been slapped, apparently," Hurley said Thursday.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported last month that the lunch occurred just days after a utility watchdog group filed paperwork with the ICC demanding $149 million in refunds from Peoples Energy for alleged overcharges to Chicago-area cnsumers.

The two commissioners at the lunch, Edward Hurley and Lula Ford, are among four ICC members who ultimately must decide whether to order refunds.  Hurley and Ford have said the case was not discussed during the lunch.

Hurley and Ford dined with Jerry Fox, Peoples' vice president for administration, and Sammy Fiorella, Peoples' manager of state regulatory affairs, at a Chicago restaurant on Jan. 10, Hurley's 51st birthday.

Senior Attorney General Michael Luke wrote in a letter to Hurley that the luncheon raised questions questions about whether ICC members are being "unduly influenced" by the utility.

Luke said the lunch was not consistent with the state's Public Utilities Act, which prohibits commissioners from accepting gifts from utilities and utilities from offering gifts to commissioners.





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