Casey Names 3d Candidate To Puc Seat

Posted: March 02, 1988

HARRISBURG — Gov. Casey nominated Deputy Commerce Secretary Joseph Rhodes Jr. yesterday to fill a key vacancy on the state Public Utility Commission.

In a statement issued by his press office, the governor described Rhodes, 40, a former Democratic state representative from Pittsburgh, as "the type of consumer-oriented public official we need on the PUC."

Rhodes could not be reached for comment. If confirmed by the Senate, he would fill the pivotal fifth seat on the PUC. The panel is currently divided 2-2, with Republicans and Democrats evenly split.

Casey's earlier nominees for the seat, Daniel Clearfield, an assistant consumer advocate, and Otto F. Hofmann, a consumer lawyer specializing in utilities, were not confirmed.

Clearfield was defeated in the Senate after his nomination was opposed by both the Philadelphia Electric Co. and the construction unions involved in building PE's Limerick nuclear power station. Hofmann withdrew his name from consideration after he confirmed reports that he had used marijuana as a young lawyer.

A spokesman for PE said the company had no comment on the nomination of Rhodes.

State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo (D., Phila.), who has pressed Casey to name someone from the Philadelphia area to the PUC, said that he was not in favor of the nomination.

"He's still not someone from Southeastern Pennsylvania," said Fumo. "Are you telling me that with all the people here, they can't find someone

qualified from Southeastern Pennsylvania?"

Compared with Clearfield and Hofmann, both of whom had extensive experience in representing consumers in their dealings with utilities, Rhodes' background is thin. Robert Grotevant, Casey's press secretary, said that while in the legislature, Rhodes co-sponsored a 1973 law limiting the authority of utilities to cut off service to customers. Grotevant said he did not know how many other co-sponsors the law had.

Grotevant said that Rhodes had also authored legislation to bar insurance companies from discriminating in the sale of policies.

Rhodes, who served in the legislature from 1973 to 1981, was defeated in efforts to win the Democratic nomination for auditor general in 1976 and the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 1980.

After leaving the legislature, he worked as an executive for Westinghouse Electric Corp. in Pittsburgh, where he became manager of strategic

investments. If confirmed, Rhodes will be the second former Westinghouse executive on the PUC. Linda Taliaferro, who was appointed by former Gov. Dick Thornburgh, also worked for Westinghouse before joining the PUC.

Rhodes is a graduate of the California Institute of Technology. He worked as a junior fellow at Harvard University from 1969 to 1972. He was a member of the President's Committee on Voluntary Service and the President's Commission on Campus Unrest during the Nixon administration.

Rhodes is married to Linda C. Rhodes, who heads the state Department of Aging. The couple have two children.

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