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California | SOUTHLAND FOCUS

Look at PUC Member's Stock Purchase Sought

October 05, 2000|Elizabeth Douglass

A consumer group asked state Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer to review whether Henry Duque, a Public Utilities Commission member, violated conflict-of-interest laws. The case involves the discovery in August that Duque had invested $10,000 in Nextel Communications, a mobile phone company that is not strictly regulated by the PUC but occasionally has business at the commission involving area codes and other matters. State law prohibits commissioners from having a financial interest in companies under PUC regulation. When the investment came to light, Duque said he bought the shares in May 1999 because he did not realize the state law would apply to Nextel. He sold the stock after being questioned about the potential conflict, gaining several thousand dollars in profit. Joseph Remcho, Duque's attorney, said the stock purchase was "an honest mistake" that was corrected promptly and "doesn't warrant any kind of penalty under the statute, and certainly not his removal from office." The Santa Monica-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights believes otherwise, and asked Lockyer to review the case.

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