On Thursday, September 5, the Montana Public Service Commission (PSC) took further steps on a rule change that will modify the way the PSC requires public utilities to disclose information about executive pay.

The decision is partly a response to Missoula based Mountain Water Company's refusal to disclose the information. A lawsuit over the issue is pending and the PSC hopes the new rule change will prevent future lawsuits.

In the meantime, Missoulians are left stranded without information that District 1 Public Service Commissioner Travis Kavulla said is, by law, part of the "public's right to know."

"Customers in the city of Missoula, Montana can't even know what the manager of their water utility makes, even though every municipally owned water utility's compensation is publicly available in the rest of Montana," Kavulla said. "It's really a ridiculous situation, and clearly the public deserves to know this information."

The new proposal will let the PSC vote on confidentiality requests on a case by case basis, but it will also require the reporting of salaries of all executives, not just the top three as the prior rule required.

"They should be answerable to the public and the public should be asking Mountain Water why they find it so unacceptable to disclose their executive compensation to the people who are legally required to take this service, who don't have any access to water otherwise," Kavulla said. "I mean, it's just incredible to me that that would be an issue at all..."

Kavulla said that Mountain Water Company's refusal to disclose is “an irony” because its parent company, Park Water, is already under a similar requirement in California.

A message was left with Mountain Water Company, which has since offered no comment.

The rule change is currently open for public comment.

Travis Kavulla: