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Indiana water regulator must wait for new job

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A lawyer for the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission must wait before becoming a lobbyist for a water utility overseen by the agency.

The State Ethics Commission ruled Thursday that Gregory Ellis must wait at least a year before he can accept a job as director of government affairs for the Indiana American Water Co.

Ellis was challenging an IURC policy drafted in 2011 in the wake of a revolving-door ethics scandal, The Indianapolis Star reported. Former IURC lawyer Scott Storms had been negotiating a job with Duke Energy in 2010 while overseeing proposed rate hikes for the company's Edwardsport coal-gasification plant.

Following Storms' actions, the IURC established a new one-year, "cooling off" period before regulators could accept work from anyone they had overseen.

But Ellis, who was seeking a waiver from the rule, argued that he had limited authority over water issues at the IURC.

"My colleagues would probably strangle me for saying this, but we're glorified law clerks," Ellis said.

But members of the ethics commission were skeptical of Ellis' statements that he had limited authority.

"I can't wrap my head around the concept that you're just a glorified law clerk," said Commissioner Priscilla Keith, a Democrat appointee to the panel.

The IURC scandal spurred then-Gov. Mitch Daniels to ask for the resignation of then-IURC Chairman David Lott Hardy, who had recommended Storms for the Duke job. Hardy was indicted by a Marion County jury on four felony counts of official misconduct in 2011, but a Marion County judge later threw out the charges. The Indiana Supreme Court upheld the lower court's dismissal last month.

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