OPC Team

Assistant People’s Counsel: Gary L. Alexander

Gary Alexander serves as an Assistant People’s Counsel. During his years at OPC, he has appeared before the Maryland Public Service Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, arguing motions, trying contested cases, and participating in settlement conferences. Gary has also participated in rulemaking work groups, including RM43, whose recommendations were enacted by the Commission. Gary earned bachelor's degrees in English Literature and Education from Stony Brook University, and a master's degree in the Creative Writing Seminars from the Johns Hopkins University. Gary obtained his juris doctorate from the University of Maryland School of Law, where he earned membership for two years to the Moot Court Board and, in January 1985, was admitted to the Maryland Bar. Since that time, he has been employed in private practice, corporate practice, and government service. From 1996 through 2004, he served as a Maryland Assistant Attorney General. Gary plays piano and guitar, has attended many concerts and Broadway shows since he was 13 years old. He loves reading novels about espionage and detectives, and non-fiction books about quantum mechanics and astrophysics. 


Deputy People’s Counsel: Juliana Bell

Juliana Bell is one of two deputies at OPC. Her role focuses on shaping the agency’s advocacy for utility customers before the Maryland Public Service Commission and State courts. Prior to joining OPC, Julie worked for nearly nine years in the Maryland Office of Attorney General, representing the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange and then the Maryland Department of Health, where she provided general legal advice and litigated in complex areas of law including provider audits, cost accounting, and reimbursement. Julie had also worked for nearly four years at the Baltimore firm Miles & Stockbridge P.C. as an associate in the bankruptcy and creditors rights group. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Baltimore School of Law in 2009. Before law school, Julie worked as a journalist for 20 years and covered topics at the intersection of business and medicine for more than ten of them, including for six years at the Baltimore Sun.


Deputy People’s Counsel: William F. Fields

William Fields serves as one of the two deputies at OPC. Bill represents the interests of Maryland residential utility consumers before the Maryland Public Service Commission, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, State courts, and federal courts. Bill has represented Maryland consumers in major plant outage litigation, electric and gas rate cases, electric and gas merger proceedings, and electric restructuring and stranded costs proceedings. He is the Office of the People’s Counsel’s representative on PJM  interconnection, L.L.C. committees, including the Members Committee and the Markets and Reliability Committee. He is a former President of the Consumer Advocates of PJM States, Inc. (CAPS) and a former Chairman of the Electric Committee of the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates (NASUCA). Prior to joining the Office of People’s Counsel, Bill was an associate at Margolis, Pritzker & Epstein, P.A. in Towson, Maryland, and a project engineer at the Naval Air Systems Command in Crystal City, Virginia. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering and a Juris Doctor degree, with honors, both from the University of Maryland.


Assistant People’s Counsel: Ryan M. Hsu

Ryan Hsu works to represent the ratepayers of Maryland on issues such as EmPOWER marketing, community solar, and the Inflation Reduction Act. Ryan earned his Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center and is a member of the Maryland Bar. Prior to law school, Ryan was an honors paralegal at the Federal Trade Commission, primarily working on IT security audits and policies. He also worked as a software tester for Epic Systems, a healthcare software company that supplies the electronic medical record software for most of the United States. Ryan has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia with a double major in Political Philosophy, Policy, and Law; and Economics.


Legal Assistant: Bernarda Lugo

Bernarda Lugo is a legal assistant for the office. She supports the work of the attorneys by drafting letters to various stakeholders and assists with filings of pleadings at the Public Service Commission and courthouses. Bernarda is bilingual and also helps to translate outreach and educational documents for OPC’s Consumer Assistance Unit. Prior to coming to OPC, she worked for the Legal Aid Bureau in their Domestic Law Unit as a Legal Assistant. While there, she was tasked with co-managing the Prose Project at the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. She co-managed this project for five years, as well as helped litigants with the completion of family law forms, explaining the court process and filing procedures.


Legal Assistant: Endia O. Montgomery

Endia Montgomery has been with OPC for over 25 years. She has worked under multiple People's Counsels and has gained a vast amount of knowledge/information regarding Maryland utilities. Endia provides support to the office’s lawyers with filings in State and federal courts, and she handles client intake inquiries for the consumer assistance team. 


Director of Consumer Assistance: Brandi Nieland

Brandi Nieland’s role at OPC focuses on community education and consumer empowerment, working with individuals and agencies to ensure residential utility consumer rights are upheld. Brandi has an extensive background working for the residents of Maryland. Before coming to OPC, she managed housing for adults in supportive living, was a community organizer with a focus on economic development, and served as the Director of 211MD United Way Helpline. She has served on several nonprofit boards and has taught at the local, state, and national levels. Brandi is a graduate of Baltimore County Leadership and has had her work highlighted in print, radio, online, and on television. She earned her Master of Social Work from the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Brandi, a Licensed Certified Social Worker, grew up in Maryland and has lived in Baltimore City for over 15 years.


Assistant People’s Counsel: Jacob M. Ouslander

Jacob Ouslander is an Assistant People’s Counsel currently focusing on issues related to utility distribution planning, community solar, retail energy supply, and utility data access. Jake has previously worked extensively on utility rate cases before both the Maryland Public Service Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, as well as dockets related to electric utility system reliability and energy assistance for low-income households. Before joining OPC, Jake served as a Staff Attorney with the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau – first as a general Staff Attorney in LAB’s Southern Maryland Office and then later as a Staff Attorney in the Housing and Consumer Law Unit in Baltimore City. Jake earned his J.D. at the University of Michigan, and his B.A. from the University of Maryland, College Park. 


Fiscal Specialist:  Donna Phillips

Donna Phillips is everything fiscal at OPC. She handles the daily processing and payments of all agency invoices, generates agency purchase orders, and resolves billing and reconciliation issues. Among many other duties, Donna also serves as the office’s United Charity Campaign Coordinator, DGS Representative for Building Services, State Travel Management Representative/Coordinator, FMIS/Fiscal Functional Coordinator, and Telecommunications Contact Advisor. Before joining the office, Donna worked for the Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DHMH). 


Assistant People’s Counsel: Michael F. Sammartino

Michael F. Sammartino’s practice focuses on natural gas commodity pricing, infrastructure siting and investment, and climate change policy. Michael obtained his J.D. with a certificate in Environmental Law from the University of Maryland, where he graduated magna cum laude and served as Manuscripts Editor for the Maryland Law Review. Michael has appeared in proceedings before the Maryland Public Service Commission and Maryland Circuit Court.


Administrator: Lori Sears

Lori Sears’ role at OPC is to develop and implement the office’s communications strategies over OPC’s website and social media channels, in newsletters, fact sheets, reports, and press releases, as directed by the People’s Counsel, all to provide information to consumers, utility and energy suppliers, government agencies and nonprofit agencies. Lori also provides litigation, administrative, and management support to the People’s Counsel, and she serves as the office liaison between DBM and OPC regarding personnel matters. Before coming to OPC, Lori worked for 25 years at The Baltimore Sun, writing, editing, copy editing, and overseeing the Sun Features department’s social media channels. Lori grew up in Owings Mills and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, in Communications from Loyola University Maryland.


Assistant People’s Counsel: Mollie Soloway Woods

Mollie Soloway Woods came to OPC with an interest in consumer and environmental advocacy. Before finding her way to the law, Mollie worked in youth and community development nonprofits in Boston, and in food and farming production further north. During law school, Mollie worked with several nonprofits, the Maryland Office of the Attorney General, and the law school’s public health law clinic to advance environmental and consumer protections. She graduated from the University of Maryland Carey School of Law in 2021 with honors and a Certificate in Environmental Law. Before joining OPC, Mollie worked as a judicial law clerk for Judge Dan Friedman on the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.


Assistant People’s Counsel: Philip L. Sussler

Philip Sussler’s work at OPC includes evaluating the intersection between energy markets and State climate policy; participation in the stakeholder processes and rule development of the PJM Interconnection, LLC, the regional transmission operator of the wholesale electric grid serving Maryland; and interventions in proceedings at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) affecting Maryland electric consumers and environmental policy. Before coming to OPC, Phil worked for nearly four decades as legal counsel and technical consultant for government agencies, as well as entities and people in the private sector, acting as either suppliers, regulators or consumers of electricity and gas, both in the US and in Latin America. His experience includes representing clients with matters before the public utility regulatory commissions in Maryland, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, as well as before FERC. He resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his family. He graduated from Yale College, received his law degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law, and is admitted to the bar in Maryland, Connecticut and Massachusetts.


Assistant People’s Counsel: Mark Szybist

Mark Szybist is an Assistant People’s Counsel who focuses on issues at the intersection of public utility regulation and climate policy, including gas utility planning, energy efficiency, beneficial electrification, and transportation electrification. Before joining OPC in 2023, Mark served for seven years as Senior Attorney and Pennsylvania climate and clean energy policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Before that, he served as Staff Attorney for Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, where he focused on environmental issues related to shale gas development issues, as a consumer bankruptcy attorney, and as a law clerk for Judge Stephen M. Holden in the New Jersey Superior Court. Mark earned his J.D. from the Temple University Beasley School of Law and his B.A. from Princeton University.


Assistant People’s Counsel: Irene “Niki” Wiggins

In her role as Assistant People’s Counsel, Niki Wiggins represents the interests of Maryland residents in a variety of matters, including those related to utility rates, customer service, and safety. Niki is focused on ensuring that Maryland’s utilities are operating in compliance with statutes, regulations, and contractual requirements so that their residential ratepayers receive safe and reliable service at a fair cost. Prior to working at OPC, Niki served the residents of Harford County as an Assistant State’s Attorney and has also worked with Kids in Need of Defense to represent unaccompanied minors in immigration proceedings. She earned her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Maryland Carey School of Law in 2019, where she graduated summa cum laude and the Order of the Coif honors. Prior to attending law school, she worked for several years as a contracts and finance professional.


Utility Services Case Manager: Pauline Wylie

Pauline Wylie is one of the Office of People’s Counsel’s “boots on the ground” and has been with the office for over 10 years. Pauline provides direct consumer assistance to residential utility customers. She also establishes and maintains many relationships with utility companies and community organizations throughout the State of Maryland. Pauline was an integral part of creating the Critical Medical Needs Program (CMNP) to assist Maryland’s most vulnerable citizens to get through the Office of Home Energy Programs’ energy assistance process. Prior to starting her career with OPC, Pauline worked for the Federal Government.


Assistant People’s Counsel:  Nicole L. Zeichner

Nicole Zeichner’s work with OPC has focused primarily on EmPOWER Maryland, Maryland’s utility customer-funded energy efficiency program. Nicole holds an undergraduate degree in Geography and Environmental Planning from Towson University, with a minor in Environmental Studies. While in law school, she worked for Baltimore-based United Workers as an organizer, helping protect the rights of day laborers and temporary staffing agency employees and developing a multilingual “Know Your Rights” program. After graduating from the University of Baltimore School of Law in 2008, she began working for a law firm, first as a Spanish-language interpreter and law clerk, and a few months later, as a litigation attorney. She represented plaintiffs in personal injury litigation, as well as other matters, for over 12 years, while managing the firm’s litigation department for over seven years.