Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Order Requiring Disclosure Of Salary Paid To Florida Power Executives Reversed

In Florida Power & Light Company, et al v. Florida Public Service Commission (1D09-4779), the First District reversed a decision of the Florida Public Service Commission requiring Florida Power to disclose the salary of certain of its executives.  The Court stated:
The Commission’s order denied Petitioners’ request to treat certain employee compensation information as confidential and exempt from public disclosure under Florida’s Public Records Law. Florida Power & Light Company (Florida Power) also petitions for a writ of certiorari to quash a similar order entered by the Commission regarding its employees’ compensation information. Florida Power’s employees petition for a writ of mandamus to prevent the disclosure of their compensation information, arguing such disclosure would violate their right to privacy guaranteed by Article I, section 23 of the Florida Constitution.
Progress Energy and Florida Power included employee compensation as costs associated with the increased rate change. Information relating to the rates or costs of services is relevant in a ratemaking proceeding for discovery purposes. § 366.093(2), Fla. Stat. Discovery in a ratemaking proceeding is governed by Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.280. See id.
Due to the request for a rate increase that was partially based upon salaries:
the Commission’s staff issued a series of interrogatories requesting the following information for all Progress Energy and Florida Power employees who earned $165,000 or more per year: name and title; base salary; overtime; bonuses; stock options; option awards; non-equity incentive plan compensation; all other compensation; total compensation; amount of total compensation allocated to the utility; and amount of total compensation included in adjusted jurisdictional other operation and management expenses.
The commission filed motions to compel the information, hearings were held and the commission ordered the companies to produce the information.  The First District reversed, stating:
The Commission denied Progress Energy’s and Florida Power’s confidentiality requests after construing sub-subsection (f) to expressly exclude compensation information from the definition of proprietary confidential business information. The Commission found the statute was unambiguous, but went on to find that even if the statute were ambiguous, the specific provisions of sub-subsection (f) prevailed over the general definition in subsection (3). As explained below, the Commission’s interpretation of section 366.093(3)(f) is clearly erroneous; therefore, we must depart from the Commission’s construction. See PW Ventures, Inc. v. Nichols, 533 So. 2d 281, 283 (Fla. 1988) (explaining the Commission’s construction of statute it is charged with enforcing is entitled to great deference and the court will not depart from such construction unless clearly erroneous).


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