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Reprimand issued for ALJ in IURC-Duke scandal

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A former administrative law judge with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission has been reprimanded by the Indiana Supreme Court, which ruled this week that a harsher sanction was unwarranted because he’d already been punished enough for seeking a job with Duke Energy while making rulings concerning the utility.

The reprimand for Scott Storms is appropriate, justices wrote, because the Indiana Ethics Commission fined him $12,000 and barred him from future state employment. Storms “has already suffered considerable penalties for his misconduct,” justices wrote in the disciplinary case In the Matter of Scott Storms, 49S00-1311-DI-747.

Duke hired Storms then fired him when accusations of ethical breaches arose. Ethics complaints clouded IURC decisions after the allegations came to light and resulted in criminal charges against former IURC director Thomas Lott Hardy. Former Gov. Mitch Daniels fired Hardy after the revelations.

Hardy was charged with a Class D felony count of official misconduct that was dismissed last year, but the state has sought to appeal that decision. Hardy was accused of lobbying Duke to hire Storms and having an ex parte communication with the company about its Edwardsport power plant in 2010.

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld later IURC rulings against Duke that were issued when rate matters were revisited after the alleged improprieties came to light.

Justices ruled Storms violated Profession Rule of Conduct 1.11(d), which generally prohibits a lawyer serving as a public employee from negotiating for private employment with anyone “involved as a party or as lawyer for a party in a matter in which the lawyer is participating.”

In the unanimous order, Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote for the court that discipline might have been more severe had the Disciplinary Commission not agreed to the reprimand.

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