The Washington Post

Nomination of former consumer advocate Elizabeth Noel remains in limbo

D.C. Council member Yvette M. Alexander says she needs to know how many cases could be potential conflicts of interest for former consumer advocate Elizabeth “Betty” Noel if she becomes a member of the Public Service Commission.

Noel, who has been nominated to the commission by Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), served 18 years as the people’s counsel, a city position in which she battled local utilities on behalf of consumers. Those cases were heard by the three-member Public Service Commission, and electric utility Pepco says there are too many open matters that once involved Noel, who left the people’s counsel position in March 2010. She would have to recuse herself from those cases.

Alexander (D-Ward 7), chairman of the council’s Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs, said she needs more information despite an hours-long hearing this month. Her committee would vote on the nomination, which would then go to the entire council for approval. The position pays $146,457 annually.

In an Oct. 14 letter to Alexander, Peter Meier, Pepco’s vice president for legal services, said Noel participated in 22 of 26 Pepco cases that are open before the commission and was an attorney in 39 of 48 open utility cases.

Alexander said she wants to get a number from the commission and the Gray administration. “I’m not going to move [the nomination] until I get an accurate count of the cases,” she said.

But Alexander added that the controversy speaks to a larger issue: “I want to know why the [commission] has failed to close their cases.”


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