Dalrymple appoints judge to PSCGov. Jack Dalrymple on Wednesday appointed a state administrative law judge to serve on North Dakota’s Public Service Commission until voters choose a permanent successor.
By: By Dale Wetzel, Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — Gov. Jack Dalrymple on Wednesday appointed a state administrative law judge to serve on North Dakota’s Public Service Commission until voters choose a permanent successor.
Bonny Fetch said she agreed to accept the appointment late Wednesday morning, about two days after she was asked if she’d be interested. She had not sought the job and was surprised to get the call, Fetch said.
“One of the things that I think is critical in both positions is the ability to listen,” Fetch said. “People that appear before the Public Service Commission, or before me as an (administrative law judge), must be able to feel like they’ve had their day in court.”
Fetch succeeds former Commissioner Tony Clark, who resigned last week to take a federal regulatory job in Washington, D.C.
She said she would begin the Public Service Commission job in late June, after she wraps up some pending cases. Fetch is taking a leave from her judge’s position, and she said she intends to return to it in January.
Randy Christmann, a Republican state senator from Hazen and the Senate’s assistant majority leader, and Brad Crabtree, a Kulm rancher and renewable energy advocate, are running for Clark’s seat. The winner in November’s election will take office Jan. 1.
Dalrymple spoke to Christmann about whether he was interested in the appointment, but he declined, saying he wanted to “devote my full attention” to the campaign.
As an administrative law judge, Fetch reviews state agency proposals and makes recommendations about what should be done about them. She handles cases that include disputes over state worker dismissals and arguments over food stamp, workers’ compensation and Medicaid benefits.
The Public Service Commission regulates electric and gas utilities, telephone companies, coal mining and mine land reclamation, pipeline routes, placement of wind energy facilities, grain elevators and auctioneers.
Last October, Fetch presided over former Dickinson State University President Richard McCallum’s appeal of his firing for allegedly manipulating school enrollment figures. She concluded the Board of Higher Education was justified in dismissing McCallum, a conclusion the board endorsed.
She has handled a number of Public Service Commission hearings, including proceedings on coal mining permits and proposed locations for electric transmission lines.
One commission dispute focused on whether Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway trains needed to blow their warning horns at a crossing near the North Dakota National Guard’s Fraine Barracks headquarters in west Bismarck. Fetch is a former Army National Guard training officer.
“In holding hearings and studying for those hearings, I’ve been very interested in the issues that come before the Public Service Commission,” Fetch said. “This gives me an opportunity to not only do some service to the state ... but also to help set some policy while I’m there, and that’s an exciting, interesting, challenging thing.”
A native of Bismarck, the 68-year-old Fetch has been an administrative law judge since the North Dakota Legislature created the Office of Administrative Hearings in 1991.
The office has three full-time administrative law judges. Fetch, who has a psychology degree from the University of Texas at Austin, is the only non-lawyer.
Before that, Fetch was a hearing officer and analyst for North Dakota state government’s personnel division, which is now called Human Resource Management Services.
Starting July 1, her Public Service Commission salary will be $95,611 annually, which is about $600 more than her pay as an administrative law judge.
“I’m certainly not doing this for a big salary increase,” she said.