PHOENIX — The showdown between Arizona Public Service and state utility regulator Bob Burns has been put off while he shops for an attorney.
Burns said Thursday he reached a deal of sorts with the power company to give it and its parent, Pinnacle West Capital Corp., more time to produce all the documents he subpoenaed.
That also puts off Burns’ demand that Don Brandt, the chief executive of both companies, submit to questioning under oath next month about political donations and other financial matters.
But Burns said he is getting something out of the deal, too: time to find and hire an attorney.
Burns had thought when he issued the subpoena last month he would have legal help in deciphering the documents he demanded. But his fellow members on the Arizona Corporation Commission vetoed his plans to hire outside counsel.
It was only last week — after APS and Pinnacle West sued to quash the subpoena — that the other regulators reversed course and agreed to let Burns bring on legal help to defend that lawsuit.
Finding a lawyer has been harder than he expected, Burns said. The attorney cannot work for a firm that handles legal matters for either APS or Pinnacle West. Also, the full commission could pull the plug on the attorney’s funding at any time.
The other regulators have said they did not want the fight with the state’s largest electric utility over its books to become a financial drain.
Commission Chairman Doug Little said the utility has suggested it would go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to defend what it says is its First Amendment right not to disclose its political donations. He worries the state could be on the hook for a seven-digit fee for its own attorney and the cost of the APS legal team if the utility won.
Burns is focusing on APS and Pinnacle West after a spokesman refused to deny that either was the source of some of the $3.2 million in anonymous donations that went into the 2014 commission election.