Peter Nickles redux?
Not quite, but Mayor Adrian M. Fenty isn’t going to have an easy time getting his nominee to chair the Public Service Commission through the D.C. Council.
In June, Fenty nominated Lori “Missy” Murphy Lee to the post, which leads a regulatory body with broad authority over electric, natural gas and telecommunications companies operating in the District.
The Washington Post did a brief item in October, but Lee’s nomination has more or less sailed under the radar until recent days. Yesterday, Friends of the Earth, a local environmental activist group, sent a mass e-mail asking its allies to oppose Lee’s confirmation and either testify before the council or submit a written statement. And today, the local chapter of the Sierra Club dispatched a note to the opposing the nomination. (The enviros are concerned about the commission’s role in promoting green energy concerns.)
A hearing on the nomination is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon before the public services and consumer affairs committee, headed by Mary M. Cheh, who voted against Nickles’ confirmation as attorney general last month. Assuming the committee sends it along, a full council vote on Lee’s nomination could come at the Dec. 16 legislative meeting.
Objections to Lee cite her thin resume [PDF] in key areas. For a decade, she’s worked as a Department of Justice staff attorney focused on immigration issues. The Friends of the Earth e-mail says Lee is “devoid of any of the regulatory, utility, or management experience required” for the job.
Says the Sierra Club’s Jim Dougherty, “It’s an insult to the citizens.”
The nomination is also attracting attention in no small part because Lee is First Lady Michelle Fenty‘s best friend. How does LL know this? Because both Missy Lee and Michelle Fenty took to the pages of Washingtonian earlier this year to detail their platonic devotion to each other. “The best thing about our friendship is we have an unspoken understanding,” Lee told the magazine. “I look at her, and she gets it—-we just pass a look and don’t exchange words.”
And Missy is not the first Lee to be tapped for a Fenty administration post. Her husband, Garrett L. Lee, worked first on Fenty’s staff as Ward 4 councilmember, then in the mayoral general counsel’s office. He left government earlier this year after being disbarred for botching a divorce case before his tenure in public service.
According to committee staff, several folks have thus far signed up to speak at tomorrow’s hearing, including leaders from Friends of the Earth and the D.C. Consumer Utilities Board, a group that represents utility ratepayers.
Herbert Harris Jr., who chairs that group, wrote in an e-mail to concerned parties last week, “In my opinion, this nomination has reduced the chairmanship of our state utility commission to the lowest level of political patronage.”