DENVER — Colorado taxpayers have paid nearly $1.6 million for outside legal counsel to argue on behalf of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) because the two government attorneys who routinely represent the PUC are being sued by a commission staffer.
Fiona Sigalla, a senior economist for the PUC, says lawyers Paul Kyed and Robin Meidhof have slandered, libeled, and defamed her character, while Kyed and Meidhof say Sigalla has bullied their legal staff to the point they have come to tears.
Both lawyers are technically employed in Attorney General Phil Weiser’s office but work on behalf of the PUC. Kyed is the first assistant attorney general who handles cases on behalf the PUC and Meidhof is a deputy attorney general who handles revenue and utility cases for Colorado including overseeing cases before the PUC.
According to a request made to the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee (JBC), Weiser asked for $787,917 to pay for “unanticipated litigation requiring the assistance of contractual private attorneys to represent the state in certain matters before the PUC.” It says a like amount is being provided by the state’s Department of Regulatory Agencies, which the PUC falls under, totaling nearly $1.6 million in expenses to date.
Final Supplemental Budget Package 2023
The document provided by JBC staff initially did not say what the “unanticipated litigation” was, stating it was limited in what can be included in the request or discussed outside an executive session. In the final supplemental package released by the JBC earlier this month, it said that Weiser was given the added money for “outside counsel for the PUC due to ongoing litigation that has created an ethical conflict of interest for attorneys that represent the PUC.”
Attorney General’s request to the Joint Budget Committee for additional funds
Complete Colorado obtained a copy of the lawsuit filed in Denver District Court on July 6, 2022, which outlines allegations that Kyed and Meidhof attempted to have Sigalla terminated from her position at the PUC through accusations that her bullying created a toxic work environment.
A Google search for Sigalla shows that she has often sided against Xcel Energy in cases before the PUC involving increases in rates or revenue for the utility giant, which enjoys a regulated monopoly over a majority of Colorado energy customers.
According to the complaint, Sigalla, who is being represented by Denver-based attorney Samuel Ventola, alleges that Meidhof sent a letter to her supervisor at the PUC containing “several false and defamatory statements” including, but not limited to:
- Sigalla engages in unacceptable conduct and unprofessional behavior.
- Sigalla bullies the AG’s PUC litigation team, creating a toxic workplace.
- Sigalla has written and verbally publicly ridiculed the PUC litigation team, undermining their work and interfering with the attorneys’ ability to provide effective legal services.
- Sigalla is overly aggressive and unprofessional … insisting on unreasonable positions in settlement discussions.
Meidhof’s letter also claimed Sigalla’s actions have caused the litigation team to cry, adding they have threatened to not work on cases in which Sigalla is a witness.
“PUC litigation team members are currently experiencing physical manifestations of anxiety and stress with every written communication and interaction with Ms. Sigalla,” Meidhof’s letter claimed. “Ms. Signalla’s behavior has had an immediate and unacceptable impact on the mental health and well-being of the PUC litigation team, including attorneys” who have left the AG’s office supposedly because of Sigalla.
The complaint alleges Meidhof received this information from Kyed and that Meidhof and Kyed have been hostile to Sigalla by refusing to work with her. Sigalla says this has interfered with her ability to do her job, and that Meidhof and Kyed are attempting to have her terminated and damage her both personally and professionally.
Meidhof and Kyed, who are being represented by Denver-based attorney Andrew Ringel of Hall & Evans, claim that Sigalla is not a resident of Colorado, but instead resides in Hawaii and works remotely, which could impact the lawsuit if the court finds all three did not physically conduct business in Colorado.
Sigalla lawsuit response on Scribd
They also claim they are immune from the suit under the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act.
In their response, which was filed on Aug. 9, 2022, defendants claim most of what Meidhof wrote in the letter is accurate, but deny other details, such as their refusal to work with Sigalla.
“All of the defendant’s actions taken with respect to plaintiff were reasonable and appropriate,” the answer to Signalla’s complaint reads. “And were for the purpose of ensuring defendants and their colleagues at the office of the Attorney General could work in a safe and professional environment while providing legal services to the trial staff of the PUC.”
Meidhof and Kyed asked the court to dismiss all claims and award attorney fees, however, the case is set to go before a jury at 8:30 a.m. on June 12 in Denver District Court, room 414. It is scheduled to last five days.
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