AUGUSTA — The former chairman of the Maine Public Utilities Commission on Wednesday won a legislative panel’s recommendation that he be confirmed as a University of Maine System trustee.

In doing so, Kurt Adams, now an executive vice president at wind energy company First Wind, overcame the opposition of wind energy opponents and those skeptical about how he’s dealt with perceived conflicts of interest.

Members of the Legislature’s Education Committee voted 7-3 in favor of Adams’ appointment to the university board. The full Senate will consider his nomination in a special session on Aug. 25.

Adams, of Yarmouth, told lawmakers his experience managing budgets and seeing First Wind through the economic recession would serve him well on the 16-member University of Maine System board of trustees.

“I think I bring a lot to the table there,” he said.

Gov. John Baldacci announced Adams’ nomination for the trustee appointment earlier this month.

Adams was Baldacci’s chief legal counsel from 2003 to 2005, when he was appointed to the MPUC. He left that position in May 2008 to work for First Wind.

But his exit was clouded by perceived conflicts of interest.

He said he left the position after Central Maine Power Co. unveiled proposed routes for new transmission lines that would have sent power lines behind his house. The company presented alternate maps, Adams said, that would have sent transmission lines near others’ properties.

“I called my lawyer and said, ‘I may or may not have a conflict, and said, “I want to retain you to advise me,”’” Adams told lawmakers.

Neither Adams’ lawyer nor the Attorney General decided there was a conflict that would warrant Adams walking off the job. But Adams decided differently.

“I did not believe that the appearance of a conflict of interest would go away,” he said. “I chose to leave my job. That’s how I deal with conflicts.”

In April, the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting reported that Adams received an equity stake in First Wind — which the company said has no value — in April 2008, in advance of his May departure from the public utilities commission.

Further, Adams had begun recusing himself from First Wind-related matters in 2007. An investigation by the Attorney General’s office last month found Adams violated no laws by accepting a job offer and First Wind equity while still on the state payroll.

Since leaving the PUC, Adams hasn’t dealt with the body on First Wind’s behalf in an effort to avoid conflicts, said Faith Huntington, director of the commission’s electric and gas division.

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