AP Exclusive: Iowa regulator keeps busy private law practice

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A powerful Iowa regulator has maintained a busy and profitable private legal practice even though a law mandates she devote her “whole time” to state business, a review by The Associated Press shows.

Iowa Utilities Board Chairwoman Geri Huser has been involved in 50 cases as an attorney during her two-year tenure, signing scores of filings and occasionally appearing at hearings during normal workhours. Judges have awarded her firm at least $177,000 in fees for her cases during that period.

An appointee of Gov. Terry Branstad and former Democratic state representative, Huser holds a job that includes regulating the service and rates of electric and gas utilities and reviewing plans for pipelines and transmission lines. As chairwoman of the three-member board, Huser has extra administrative duties and earns a $128,900 salary.

Under Huser, the board has approved eminent domain for the Dakota Access pipeline, major wind energy developments and rules on how utilities charge for customer-owned solar installations. She’s also managed to handle a variety of legal cases through a family firm, Skinner Law Office, an Altoona business she had distanced herself from when facing a potential conflict over the pipeline.

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Clients have included a widow who claims her stepchildren are mismanaging a $4.5 million estate, the brother of an incapacitated man seeking to become his guardian, and a mobile home park who filed a small claims action against tenants. Most of her cases have involved administering estates, which includes distributing assets among heirs and takes months to complete.

State spokesmen denied that Huser’s work conflicted with the law specifying that regulators “shall devote the member’s whole time to the duties of the office.”

But prior members who were lawyers, such as Sheila Tipton, have left their firms. And Richard Lozier,…

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