Outgoing Maine Public Advocate Barry Hobbins asked the Maine Public Utilities Commission to launch an investigation into Central Maine Power following an external audit that said the utility's management contributed to its service problems. Credit: Lori Valigra / BDN

Maine’s outgoing ratepayer advocate asked electric regulators Friday to investigate Central Maine Power Co. following an independent audit that found the utility’s management structure played a role in its myriad service problems.

Public Advocate Barry Hobbins filed a request with the Maine Public Utilities Commission to open one or more investigations and implement remedies for the utility’s problems. He said that would have “a substantial likelihood in resulting in improved service by CMP to its customers.”

The commission initiated the auditor’s report in January 2020 after it had investigated the utility and ordered it to compensate customers for billing errors and pay at least a $10 million management efficiency fee. Liberty Consulting Group of Pennsylvania performed the audit for the commission, which released the results in mid-July, seeking public comment.

Hobbins and his colleagues lauded CMP Executive Chairman David Flanagan for having “a direct and positive impact on the culture at CMP” and the utility’s performance, suggesting that, “under the right leadership, CMP and [parent company] Avangrid can be responsive to the concerns of regulators and other stakeholders.”

But the public advocate pointed to ongoing and pervasive concerns that it asked the commission to investigate, including CMP’s staffing levels, reliability, system planning and capital budgeting, customer service and affiliate services.

CMP did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

In a separate filing with the commission Friday, a CMP lawyer wrote that a new investigation is not needed, citing reasons including that the commission currently has several ongoing probes and other proceedings that address performance and that the audit cited recent improvements.

Hobbins, a longtime Democratic legislator nominated to his post in 2017 by former Gov. Paul LePage, announced plans earlier this year to step down after the legislative session ended. But he is still serving as Gov. Janet Mills has not made a nomination. Last week, five people were in the running, a source with knowledge of the appointment told the Bangor Daily News.