OCPA CEO Is Back on the Chopping Block – Will Irvine Vice Mayor Tammy Kim Vote to Keep Him?

Once again this week, the Orange County Power Authority board of directors will vote on whether to terminate the agency’s CEO, who has been tied to corruption allegations at the agency and an ongoing cause of numerous failures, including exit discussions by every member city. Although there are six members on the OCPA board, the decision of whether to keep CEO Brian Probolsky rests with Irvine Vice Mayor Tammy Kim for reasons explained below.

The termination discussion was placed on the agenda by Irvine Councilmember and climate scientist Kathleen Treseder, who has raised concerns about Probolsky’s lack of education, training, and ethics since before she took office. Treseder also requested the appointment of an Acting Chief Executive Officer immediately after the termination vote, signaling a plan to install a temporary replacement at the same meeting. 

The items should be welcome news to the leaders of 20+ local organizations that sent the board a letter in February asking that Probolsky and the general counsel be replaced. State senator Dave Min has also called for Probolsky’s resignation amid a scathing state audit, with Min saying board members should fire Probolsky if he refuses to step down. 

The Orange County Grand Jury also raised questions about Probolsky’s lack of experience (see chart below) and the unusual hiring practices that placed him in that position. Probolsky’s treatment of former COO Antonia Castro Graham, who resigned as a result, also raised alarms about OCPA’s ability to fulfill its goals. Castro-Graham has years of experience, three degrees related to clean energy, and a master’s degree in sustainability. Her resignation was a huge loss for OCPA and left it without a qualified leader in operations. 

But the reality is that whether the CEO stays is entirely up to Irvine’s Tammy Kim. Here’s why:

OCPA’s founding document gives any board member the ability to call for a “weighted vote,” where each board member’s vote is counted based on the amount of electricity OCPA provides to their city. In a weighted vote scenario, Irvine’s weight plus the weight of any other city wins. But Irvine has two board representatives, each of whom controls half of Irvine’s 47.8% of OCPA weighted vote shares, and if Irvine’s weight is split by Kim and Treseder voting in opposite directions, Probolsky will likely keep his job.

Treseder has been open about her desire to terminate Probolsky, and Buena Park representative Jose Trinidad Castaneda agendized an employee review of Probolsky for the same meeting this week, signaling his interest in ousting the CEO as his city prepares to discuss the possibility of leaving OCPA at an upcoming council meeting.

Here’s the weighted vote breakdown by city:

  • Buena Park: 9.7%
  • Fullerton: 16.7%
  • Huntington Beach: 25.8%
  • Irvine: 47.8%
  • County of Orange: 0%

So the question is whether Democrat Tammy Kim, who is running for Irvine mayor, will vote to keep Probolsky, who, in addition to having a well-documented history of incompetence and ethical lapses, is also a “GOP insider” who has hired at least one Republican crony, Andrew Di Giovanna, into a staff position at OCPA, prompting concerns that the clean energy agency is being used as a tool to maintain power for Republicans in the county.

However, Republicans should also be disconcerted by Probolsky’s role at the agency since their political platform embraces fiscal conservatism, and Probolsky has already cost ratepayers millions in fines. Fiscal conservatives and Democrats should agree that Probolsky needs to go.

All this sets up Wednesday’s vote as an important test for Tammy Kim as she campaigns to be mayor of Irvine. You can email Tammy Kim your thoughts on OCPA at: [email protected].  

How to Participate

Here’s the meeting agenda with instructions on how to participate.

Support community journalism. Please donate or volunteer with Irvine Watchdog and help us make future articles like this possible.