Georgia PSC candidate misstated degrees

Pam Davidson told the AJC in its 2008 voters’ guide that she had received a Bachelor of Science degree in organizational behavior from the University of San Francisco. Separately, documents submitted as sworn testimony to the PSC in 2003 stated Davidson received a master’s degree in public administration from the university. Neither document lists a year that she graduated.

University officials said Davidson attended the school but never earned any degree. Davidson said she had enough credits for a bachelor's degree, but never received it. She said the sworn testimony in 2003 listing a master's degree in her background information was a mistake made by a company she was consulting for at the time, which had filed the paperwork.  .

When asked how the company got the erroneous information, Davidson said, "I have no idea."

Davidson, a 48-year-old Republican making her second attempt for a six-year term on the state utility board, said she completed all of the coursework, but never received her bachelor's degree because of a university "glitch."

“I have completed all the coursework for graduation,” Davidson said of her bachelor's degree. “That is the truth.”

When pressed to elaborate, Davidson said she participated in graduation, but then she and her family then left for Georgia two days later."Honestly, honestly, honestly, I can't remember. It was a paperwork thing," she said.

When she didn't get her diploma in the mail, she called the university. Davidson said the school "didn't tell me what the glitch was." She plans to call the university again Monday.

The university could not offer more details about whether she completed her coursework or address any "glitch"; they only had record of her withdrawal from the school.

The registrar's office at the University of San Francisco confirmed Davidson attended the school from August 1996 to May 1998. She is listed as a "withdrawn student" with no reason given. A university spokeswoman said records show Davidson returning to the university in 2003, again seeking an undergraduate degree in organizational behavior, but withdrew before graduating. Davidson disputes that she returned to the university, and property records show her living in Fannin County at that time.

Davidson, who worked as a consultant for renewable energy developer BG&E, narrowly lost to Bubba McDonald in 2008, capturing 48 percent of the vote. She is now challenging incumbent Stan Wise.

The AJC reviewed the resumes and financial disclosures of all PSC candidates. Two incumbents -- Wise and Chuck Eaton -- are up for re-election this year. Eaton faces three challengers and Wise faces one. Five PSC commissioners serve on the board, however, they are elected to staggered terms.

Wise, who is seeking his fourth term on the panel, said he planned to make an issue of Davidson's misstatements in their campaign for the July 31 primary.

"I think it's a fundamental flaw," Wise said.

But Davidson said Wise's accusations amount to bullying.

"It's all minor," she said. "Voters are smart. They are going to figure out this is bullying."

Wise is outspoken and has long been active in state GOP circles. His campaign contributions have flowed largely from individuals and attorneys who work for or represent the interests of utilities, according to a review of campaign contributions on state government websites.

Deliberately lying in sworn testimony to the PSC is perjury, but a spokesman said the PSC has never penalized anyone who's testimony has proven to be false. When submitting written testimony, a witness must swear to its accuracy.

Davidson has lobbied before the state Legislature and has testified before the PSC.  Prepared documents used as part of sworn testimony before the PSC in 2003 state Davidson received a master's degree from the university. At that time she was a consultant for renewable energy developer Biomass Gas & Electric.

“BG&E made a mistake, and they have to rectify that mistake,” Davidson said. “There’s a lot going on when you bring a case up. I didn’t prepare that document. I should have read it, and I should have entered in a correction. That is my omission.”

The chief executive officer of Biomass Gas & Electric said he doesn't remember who prepared the documents. "It was just something that fell through the cracks," Glenn Farris said. "It was a pretty minor thing in connection with the case."

Davidson also did not initially report $16,334 in federal and state tax liens and judgments on a financial disclosure when she qualified to run for the state utility board.

But she filed an amended disclosure Tuesday listing the liens as well as unpaid debts on credit cards and an unpaid bill to Fannin County Regional Hospital. The disclosure also includes an unpaid student loan, which Davidson said is for the University of San Francisco.

Davidson told the AJC her former husband is responsible for paying the student loan and the credit card debt.

The PSC regulates investor-owned utility monopolies in the state, including Georgia Power and Atlanta Gas Light. If elected, Davidson would have influence over the rates that those companies charge customers. Commissioners make $116,452.32 a year.

In a separate PSC race, Eaton, a Republican, is vying for a second term. He faces one Republican in the primary as well as a Democrat and a Libertarian candidate.

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