Attorney warns PSC executive compensation rule repeal could bring lawsuit

2013-04-23T19:00:00Z 2014-10-19T08:12:18Z Attorney warns PSC executive compensation rule repeal could bring lawsuitThe Associated Press The Associated Press
April 23, 2013 7:00 pm  • 

HELENA – The Public Service Commission would open itself to possible litigation if it repeals a rule that requires disclosure of the compensation of utilities’ top three employees, an attorney representing the Montana Newspaper Association said Tuesday.

There is no constitutional right to privacy when it comes to salaries and compensation, and dropping the rule would wrongly shift the burden of disclosure away from the government agency, attorney Mike Meloy told commissioners.

He said there is no question that the salaries of public employees and utility employees are public, citing a previous state Supreme Court decision and a Montana attorney general’s opinion.

“If somebody sues you, you won’t have a basis for defending that,” Meloy said.

Last month, the commission sent notice that it plans to repeal the compensation disclosure rule, triggering a public comment period that ends Friday.

Meloy, a Helena attorney who works on freedom-of-information issues, was the only person to testify at Tuesday’s public hearing. Commissioner Travis Kavulla said more than 40 written comments also have been submitted.

Most support keeping the rule that says compensation of the three highest-paid, Montana-based utility employees cannot be treated as confidential information, he said.

But a majority of the five-member panel supports dropping the rule, saying it is poorly written, does nothing to make government better and should not apply to private companies.

Kavulla is the exception. He says utilities are different from other private companies because they are monopolies and their customers have no choice in where they receive their services.

Repealing the rule would help settle a pending lawsuit by Mountain Water Co., which provides water to the city of Missoula and surrounding areas. The company says the PSC rule violates the state constitution’s right-to-privacy provisions and exceeds the commission’s authority.

On Feb. 25, District Judge Mike Menahan halted proceedings for six months while the two sides work out a settlement that hinges on the PSC repealing the rule.

Commission Chairman Bill Gallagher said the PSC will respond to the comments and either hold a working session in late May or early June, or simply let the rule expire after the six-month notice period ends.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

No Comments Posted.

Missoulian Civil Dialogue Policy

Civil Dialogue Policy for Commenting on Missoulian.com

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Comments can only be submitted by registered users. By posting comments on our site, you are agreeing to the following terms:

Commentary and photos submitted to the Missoulian (Missoulian.com) may be published or distributed in print, electronically or other forms. Opinions expressed in Missoulian.com's comments reflect the opinions of the author, and are not necessarily the opinions of the Missoulian or its parent company. See the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy for more information.

Our guidelines prohibit the solicitation of products or services, the impersonation of another site user, threatening or harassing postings and the use of vulgar, abusive, obscene or sexually oriented language, defamatory or illegal material. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability or other classification. It's fine to criticize ideas, but ad hominem attacks on other site users are prohibited. Users who violate those standards may lose their privileges on missoulian.com.

You may not post copyrighted material from another publication. (Link to it instead, using a headline or very brief excerpt.)

No short policy such as this can spell out all possible instances of material or behavior that we might deem to be a violation of our publishing standards, and we reserve the right to remove any material posted to the site.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

Search our events calendar