Saturday, February 12, 2005

ICC Chairman Hurley denies violating Open Meetings Act

Gov. Blagojevich, who elevated Hurley to the ICC Chairman position in 2003, had his spokeswoman, Abby Ottenhoff, state that the ICC needs to be more mindful of the Open Meetings Act and questioned whether there were ethical lapses at the Hurley/Ford/Peoples Energy lunch meeting. [See Chicago Sun-Times, January 25, 2005 article by Dave McKinney]
Jeff Berkowitz: …Commissioner [ICC Chairman] Hurley, this is a one month anniversary of a famous lunch, or a celebrated lunch that has been much in the news—your January 10th lunch at Smith & Wollensky…as you know, you were there with Commissioner Ford and two Peoples Energy executives, or so we are told by the media and a third utility company [Peoples Energy] employee and although some people question, which you apparently deny, whether you discussed at that lunch …the issue that CUB [Citizens Utility Board] raises, that Peoples Energy should be giving a [149 million dollar] refund, the more important point as I understand the Open Meetings Act is that it requires an open meeting…when, as in this case, where you had four commissioners, two, or more, are meeting to discuss Commission business. Isn’t it Commission business if you discuss, as you apparently agreed, potential employment of an employee of People’s Energy by the ICC?

Illinois Commerce Commission Chairman Hurley: The article of which you speak- and it hasn’t been going on that long, it was kind of a two day story-

Jeff Berkowitz: It was in the January 25th Chicago Sun-Times--

Chairman Hurley: The question that was raised by the article was whether or not Lula and I did in fact violate the Open Meetings Act by having lunch and discussing what some suggested was state business. The lunch-- the young gentleman that we were introduced to, we were not interviewing him, it was simply a casual introduction of a young man in our efforts to try to improve the diversity at the ICC, something I’ve been trying to do since I got there and how one could conclude that a casual introduction of a young African American gentleman to Lula and I [sic] is state business, I will leave that one to you.

Berkowitz: Has the [Illinois] Attorney General indicated whether she agrees with you?

Chairman Hurley: The Attorney General and the Governor’s Inspector General have both spoken with Lula and myself [sic] .

Berkowitz: But has she indicated whether she agrees [with you].

Paul Green [City Club of Chicago program moderator]. Jeff, Jeff, Jeff, it is not a-- Thank you very much.
Paul Green: On behalf of the City Club [of Chicago], I want to give you [Chairman Hurley] something that even Jeff Berkowitz won’t complain about- a very expensive [City Club] mug and a one year membership in the City Club [of Chicago]. We are adjourned.
Edward Hurley, Chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission, answering questions after speaking at a City Club of Chicago program this week on Wednesday, February 9. The full speech, preceded by introductions by City Club President Jay Doherty of personalities in the crowd of 300, or so, and the questions and answers that followed immediately after the speech, will be cablecast throughout the city of Chicago tonight, Saturday, February 12 at 7:00 pm on Cable Ch. 21 [CANTV]. The program will air again on Wed., February 16 at 10:00 am on Cable Ch. 19 [CANTV].