I was finally able to download the entire video of the PSC Commission work session today and it’s a remarkable meeting, as GOP members of the commission traded serious ethical charges at one another in a dispute over travel by Commissioner Molnar. This video captures the exchange before recess in which the commission members Travis Kavulla and Bill Gallagher traded allegations of impropriety at one another:
Kavulla alleged that former Chairman Gallagher has been using his PSC office to run his private legal practice, and that Gallagher conspired with Commissioner Molnar to keep the latter’s travel to a FERC conference in Washington secret from the commission and the public.
Gallagher alleged that Commissioner Kavulla has engaged in secret travel of his own, and plans to hold another work session to investigate information that Kavulla has withheld from the commission, specifically that he traveled to Las Vegas to speak to a utility investors conference, posted his destination to the commission calendar and subsequently removed it. Perhaps more seriously, Gallagher alleged that Commissioner Kavulla has had inappropriate contact with both utility and investor groups against the advice of the PSC’s legal counsel.
Gallagher concluded his criticism of Kavulla by saying that he does “not have the integrity, the maturity, or the character” necessary to chair the PSC.
Commissioner Molnar argued that the entire proceeding and allegations of secrecy were nothing more than “political hyperbole,” arguing that the investigation is “ego-building, power-seeking.” Alluding to Kavulla, he argued that, “If one person has learned the power of three out of five, if they decide to sow discontent, do personal empire building, self-aggrandizement, you’re going to have that.”
A few things seem quite clear. For one, the GOP leadership at the PSC is completely incapable of governing their meetings. Their petty feuding and personal animus towards one another will lead to continued bickering and political theatrics that will make the Montana House look like a responsible government body. For another, Chairman Kavulla has finally achieved his stated aim of assuming the role of PSC chair, no matter what it took to achieve it.
Finally, there are some important questions the public and press need to ask. Can the PSC do its job under these commissioners? Is Commissioner Kavulla meeting inappropriately with industry and investors? Is Commissioner Gallagher illegally using his state office to conduct a private business? Why did Chairman Kavulla, the champion of transparency, only make that allegation to retaliate against Gallagher today rather than raising the issue sooner?
It’s clear that the GOP majority on the PSC needs to get its act together, but it’s hard to imagine how that will happen.