Committee of Consumer Services Approves Reberg as Director

Committee of Consumer Services Approves Reberg as Director

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Committee of Consumer Services has approved the governor's selection of former phone company lobbyist Leslie Reberg as its director of the organization that represents consumers, small businesses and farmers in utility regulation cases.

The 4-2 vote in favor of Reberg ends weeks of controversy that began March 9 when Gov. Jon Huntsman picked her to lead the committee after firing its longtime director, Roger Ball, whose strong advocacy angered some legislators and large businesses.

Consumer advocates have viewed the governor's firing of Ball and choice of Reberg to replace him as an effort to curb the committee.

Reberg said she intends to fight just as hard, but in her own way.

"The law is pretty clear what my role is. I am to be an advocate for consumers," she said.

During Wednesday's meeting, committee member Betsy Wolf wanted Reberg to publicly cite her qualifications and for the group to discuss her nomination in an open meeting.

However, the committee voted to exclude the public from its deliberations.

Wolf and committee Chairman Dee Jay Hammon cast the votes against confirming Reberg.

Hammon said she does not possess the expertise on utility matters Roger Ball had when he was fired, "but then Roger Ball did not have the expertise of his predecessors when he started, either."

The committee said in a statement that Reberg does have wide experience in local government, and "has demonstrated an ability to be a fast learner, and has the support of a competent staff and competent legal counsel."

Utah consumer advocate Claire Geddes said Reberg's opponents never were given a chance to voice their concerns.

"All (the panel) ever heard was one side of the argument," she said. "And to not discuss her qualification in public sends a horrible message" that they were not comfortable enough with her qualifications to discuss them openly.

Geddes said the committee, in approving Reberg, has surrendered its independence.

"For the first time they have allowed a governor to come in and make a political appointment," said Geddes.

Geddes said she will no longer fight for the committee's survival.

"They have sold consumers out," she said.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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