Attorney General Nathan enlists experts to advise on Noel’s nomination

Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan is bringing on a three-member panel of experts to advise on whether one of the city’s former consumer advocates could effectively serve on the Public Service Commission, the board that regulates utilities.

Pepco has been aggressively lobbying against the nomination of Elizabeth “Betty” Noel, Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s pick for the influential commission. The electric utility argues that Noel was the people’s counsel for 18 years and that she had litigated many of the cases before the commission, creating a conflict of interest and making it nearly impossible for her to serve adequately.

Her nomination remains in a committee overseen by D.C. Council member Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7), a Gray ally, but the administration is looking at ways to ensure that Noel’s nomination gets to the full council for a vote.

The expert panel is made up of Patricia M. Worthy, a Howard University law professor; Thomas D. Morgan, a George Washington University law professor; and Agnes Alexander Yates, a former member of the Public Service Commission who has held several other high-profile posts.

In a Nov. 9 letter to the three, who are serving pro bono, Nathan asked that a written report be completed by the end of the month. “The overriding question is: Can 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, serve effectively as a judicious, productive Commissioner of the Public Service Commission,” he wrote.

Nathan also lists nine other questions, mostly on the standards for recusals, to be examined.

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