Judge’s order prevents ex-Nevada PUC official from deleting social media accounts

CARSON CITY — A federal judge has granted the data storage company Switch a temporary restraining order preventing former PUC general counsel Carolyn Tanner from permanently deleting her social media accounts.

The order requiring Tanner to immediately reactivate her Twitter account and other social media accounts was granted on Monday by U.S. District Judge James Mahan, who set the matter for further proceedings on July 28 in Las Vegas.

Switch filed a lawsuit last week against the Nevada Public Utilities Commission and NV Energy arguing that the company was unconstitutionally denied the ability to purchase 100 percent renewable energy directly from the national market. The PUC denied Switch’s application to leave as a retail customer of NV Energy in 2015.

As part of the lawsuit, Switch cites comments made by Tanner, who stepped down as general counsel last month, on Twitter and other social media accounts that show a bias in favor of NV Energy.

Switch’s proposed emergency order, filed Monday, alleges that Tanner deactivated and has “attempted to permanently delete, destroy or hide her social media accounts and social media activity.”

The proposed order alleged that Tanner’s Twitter account is “at imminent risk of permanent destruction if not enjoined.”

Tanner commented on PUC matters using the name “@DixieRaeSparx” on social media. Tanner told the Review-Journal last month that her comments were appropriate and had nothing to do with her personal decision to resign as general counsel.

Switch filed the first application to exit as a customer of NV Energy last year but the PUC rejected the proposal. Switch later struck a deal with Nevada Power, part of NV Energy, to remain for at least the next three years.

The Switch lawsuit notes that while the company was denied, others have been approved to leave, including MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts this year.

The lawsuit also notes that Switch was able to obtain 100 percent renewable power but at a significant premium and only with NV Energy “wedged in as a gratuitous middle-man.” The complaint alleges that NV Energy has been unjustly enriched due to purchasing 100 percent solar energy at 3.8 cents per kilowatt hour based on Switch’s consumption although Switch has been forced by the PUC and NV Energy to pay 9 cents per kilowatt hour to NV Energy for the same power.

Switch’s lawsuit claims Tanner’s inappropriate use of social media and unprofessional conduct during the docket exposed her bias toward supporting NV Energy — the company she was charged with regulating — and therefore compromised the PUC’s ability to provide Switch a fair hearing.

The PUC has yet to comment on the lawsuit.

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801

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