Gov. Ned Lamont on Wednesday named Claire Coleman as the state consumer counsel, filling a job vacated more than two years ago.
“I think it’s overdue, and we’re glad to see it,” said Nora Duncan, the state director of the AARP, which lobbies on behalf of consumers. “We’ve worked with Claire in the past and had really good interactions.”
Coleman, the undersecretary of legal affairs in the state Office of Policy and Management, will take over leadership of the Office of Consumer Counsel on Dec. 3, an interim appointment until confirmed by the General Assembly.
The office represents the interests of consumers before utility regulators and the courts on issues involving electricity, natural gas, telecommunications and water.
Coleman joined the Lamont administration in April, becoming the top lawyer at OPM two months before Elin Swanson Katz resigned as consumer counsel. She previously worked for two years on climate and energy issues at Save the Sound, three years at Wiggin & Dana and four years on the legal staff of the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
“Claire’s expertise in energy law, investigations and regulatory reform makes her a great fit to effectively advocate for the interests of all customers of electricity, gas, water, telephone and cable services,” Lamont said.
Lamont’s announcement was not unexpected. He said last week he had made a choice for consumer counsel, but the person was in a position he needed to fill. Coleman’s name had been rumored as a likely choice.
The acting consumer counsel has been Richard E. Sobolewski, the supervisor of technical analysis in the office for nearly two decades.
Max Reiss, the governor’s communications director, defended the delay in finding a permanent successor to Katz, saying the administration had to resume a candidate search after at least one applicant declined the post. It is not clear when Coleman became a candidate.
Reiss said the governor believed that the staff at the Office of Consumer Counsel had confidence in Sobolewski.
Coleman, who lives in Woodbridge, has a bachelor’s degree from Cornell and a law degree from Northwestern.
“I am looking forward to joining the Office of Consumer Counsel and advocating on behalf of Connecticut consumers by working with state leaders, regulators, and stakeholders on innovative, equitable, and inclusive solutions that will improve the affordability, sustainability, and performance of our energy, water, and telecommunications utility infrastructure to the benefit of all consumers,” she said.