Ex Parte Communications
When it comes to engaging with the Commission, members of the public, groups, and utilities may want to know who at the Commission they may contact about an open docket and what type of communication is acceptable under the Commission’s ex parte rules. By definition, an “ex parte communication" means an oral or written, off-the-record communication made to or by commissioners or commission decision-making personnel, without notice to parties or participants, that is directed to the merits or outcome of an on-the-record proceeding. Ex parte communications with Commissioners are prohibited. This means that individual Commissioners will hear from people on-the-record, either through written filings or at agenda meetings that are open to the public, but will not communicate orally or in writing with people in a manner that is private, or off-the-record.
This restriction protects the interests of everyone involved in the case, as well as the public, and ensures that Commission decisions are made consistent with the public interest and without improper influence. As a decision-maker, the Commission operates formally, using the record that is developed in each case, similar to how a court makes its decisions. At the end of a case, people may disagree with the decision, but the public trust is a cornerstone of the agency’s decision-making process, and for this reason, Commissioners adhere strictly to the prohibition on ex parte communications.
There are, however, certain communications that do not fall under this definition. These include items such as procedural, scheduling, and status inquiries, or other inquiries or requests for information that have no bearing on the merits or the outcome of the proceeding. Generally, this means that Commissioners and Commission staff may discuss the procedural matters of an open docket, such as when a public meeting will be held or when to file a comment. If you have such questions, you are welcome to contact Commission staff, and they will assist you in answering your questions.
An ex parte communication with a Commission staff person, other than a Commissioner, is not prohibited, but the staff person will file a record of the communication into the case file in e-dockets, as required by the Commission’s rules, which can be found here: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/rules/7845/full