• Arizona
  • Thursday , Feb 1 , 2018

Area Info

San Tan Valley Area Information

5 minutes reading time (948 words)

UPDATED: Commissioner Tobin Asks Commission to Approve Search Warrant on Johnson Utilities

At an Open Meeting August 14, EPCOR's Vice President of Corporate Services Shawn Bradford testified about hazardous and potentially catastrophic environmental conditions within some of Johnson Utilities' facilities.

“When inspection results shared in public include the statement that explosions and loss of life are possible due to severe neglect, it’s time to immediately act,” said Tobin. “The potential exposure to utility employees, residents, and first responders should be immediately remedied.”

“The critical health and safety crises (EPCOR) advised us of last week go to the heart of why urgency and compliance were so imperative for the Commission from the outset,” wrote Tobin in a letter docketed today. “As a natural monopoly subject to the regulatory compact of the Arizona constitution, Johnson Utilities is and always will be subject to complete and total access by the Commission. There is no other body in the state that has this responsibility, and it is incumbent on us to exercise our duties to the public as clearly and quickly as possible during these most dire of times and circumstances.”

Johnson Utilities, LLC provides water and wastewater services in portions of Pinal and Maricopa counties. Customers have reported various troubling issues with their water service including poor water quality, low water pressure, sewage spills, and questionable billing practices.

Commissioners voted to appoint an interim manager to run the company on July 24, 2018, and a consulting agreement was finalized with EPCOR on August 1, 2018. Since that time, EPCOR reports it has not been granted access to Johnson Utilities’ financial accounts or some of its facilities.

“I implore the Commission to exercise its authority to the greatest extent conceivable – by immediately calling an emergency open meeting upon receipt of this letter and issuing the sample search and seizure warrant I have prepared and attached for your decisive action,” Tobin wrote.

A copy of Commissioner Tobin’s letter can be found below.

I want to emphasize my appreciation for the Town of Queen Creek and Utilities Division Staff in their recent requests for administrative subpoenas in the above-captioned matter. In light of the recent events in this and related Dockets, I feel deeply that Johnson Utilities' track record for delay and blatant contumacy for the Commission's authority should no longer be allowed to prevent the Commission from taking action on its executive and judicial duties.

The history of Johnson Utilities has consistently been that of delay and obstructionism, unscrupulous litigation, and wanton disrespect, and now we are looking at potentially life-threatening conditions to the public, employees, and first responders while our interim manager agreement is suspended for an indefinite period of time.

The critical health and safety crises ECOR advrsed us of last week go to the heart of why urgency and compliance were so imperative for the Commission from the outset. As a natural monopoly subject to the regulatory compact of the Arizona constitution, Johnson Utilities is and always will be subject to complete and total access by the Commission. There is no other body in the state that has this responsibility, and it is incumbent on us to exercise our duties to the public as clearly and quickly as possible during these most dire of times and circumstances.

Feeling adamantly about this position, not only do I support the requests of the Town of Queen Creek and the Utilities Division Staff in seeking their respective subpoenas, but also I implore the Commission to exercise its authority to the greatest extent conceivable-by immediately calling an emergency open meeting upon receipt of this letter and issuing the sample search and seizure warrant I have prepared and attached for your decisive action. I do not make this request lightly, and in the event of an affirmative vote, I strongly recommend the Commission permit the Legal Division to make all revisions necessary to the sample warrant for its effective implementation. However, the delay and obstructionism have gone on for too long-and I feel it is time we obtain a final resolution in this matter once and for all.

[READ SAMPLE WARRANT HERE]

Additional correspondence related to the Commission’s investigation of the billing and water quality issues of Johnson Utilities, LLC. can be found in the online docket at WS-02987A-18-0050

 

Update: Legal Counsel has advised Commissioner Tobing that the ACCF does not have authority to issue a warrant except: 

  • When the property to be seized was stolen or embezzled.
  • When the property or things to be seized were used as a means of committing a public offense.
  • When the property or things tobeseized are in the possession of a person having the intent to use them as a means of committing a public offense or in possession of another to whom he may have delivered it for the purpose of concealing it or preventing it being discovered.
  • When property or things to be seized consist of any item or constitute any evidence which tends to show that a particular public offense has been committed, or tends to show that a particular person has committed the public offense.
  • When the property is to be searched and inspected by an appropriate official in the interest of the public health, safety or welfare as part of an inspection program authorizedby law.
  • When the person sought is the subject of an outstanding arrest warrant. 

The full response can be read here.

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