Bentz resigns from Miss. Public Service Commission

Mississippi State NewsEMILY WAGSTER PETTUS,Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Republican Leonard Bentz has stepped down from the Mississippi Public Service Commission, as expected.

Bethann Dufour, spokeswoman for the PSC’s southern district, said Tuesday that Bentz’s resignation took effect at 7:59 a.m. Monday.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant will appoint a new commissioner to represent the southern one-third of the state, and that person will serve the rest of the four-year term, which expires in January 2016. Bryant spokesman Mick Bullock told The Associated Press that he won’t speculate about the governor’s timetable for making an appointment.

Bentz served two years in the state House of Representatives before then-Gov. Haley Barbour appointed him in 2006 to the PSC, the three-member group that regulates utilities. The 41-year-old from Woolmarket has been hired as executive director of the South Mississippi Planning and Development District.

On the PSC, Bentz was paid $78,000 a year. His salary for the 15-county planning district will be $150,000.

After his final meeting as a PSC member last week, Bentz defended his support of a generating plant that Mississippi Power Co. is building in Kemper County. Although the commission approved rate increases for the project, Bentz said he had worked to contain costs for consumers.

Bentz’s father, Leonard Bentz Sr., was secretary for the board of the South Mississippi Planning and Development District. As part of the younger Bentz’s hiring, the father agreed to leave that position.

The younger Bentz, who does not have a college degree, said last week that it was unfair for people to suggest that he had received preferential treatment. Just before he was hired, the board for the planning and development district removed a requirement that the executive director have a degree.