Supreme Court weighs whether state agency’s meetings can be recorded

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Alabama Court

The Alabama Supreme Court will decide whether Public Service Commission hearings are public meetings in a case that began after a candidate was kicked out for recording a proceeding.

The Montgomery Advertiser reports that justices heard arguments Wednesday in the appeal brought by Laura Casey, a candidate for Public Service Commission president. Casey and others were escorted out of the commission hearing for recording the proceeding. The hearing was focused on a challenge to fees levied by Alabama Power on homeowner-installed solar panels.

“Why in the world would the PSC not want to have the meeting recorded?” said Chris Christie, an attorney for Casey, at the hearing on Wednesday. “Why do they not want the public to see what’s being said about the Alabama Power Company?”

Her lawsuit asked for a court declaration that the utility regulatory commission violated the state’s Open Meetings Act, which allows the recording of public meetings.

Attorney Bobby Segall, appearing for the Public Service Commission, argued that deliberations by public officials had to take place to fall under the Open Meetings Act.

During the hearing, the three PSC commissioners listened to testimony but did not deliberate.

“There’s no participation of members,” he said. “No comments, no persuasive questions, no discussions at all between the members.”

The meeting was open to the public as the three PSC members sat and heard testimony about why they thought the fees were or weren’t justified.

At least some justices present appeared to agree with Segall, the newspaper reported. During their questioning of Christie, several suggested that the standard he was arguing was too broad.

“If the 3 commissioners just end up at a cocktail party and someone talks about what happened at the PSC yesterday, they’d be in violation,” said Justice Tommy Bryan.

Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.