OC Power Authority Ignores OC Grand Jury Report
The Orange County Grand Jury (OCGJ) released a report on the Orange County Power Authority (OCPA) last month. The report was titled, “Orange County Power Authority, Come Clean.” One of the findings related to issues of the OCPA not reporting public comments accurately in the minutes:
“In a detailed review of the OCPA Board minutes, the OCGJ found inaccuracies and unnecessary or potentially misleading omissions, including failing to refer to questions and statements made during public comments.”
Finding F6 of the Grand Jury report specifically called out the OCPA on this issue:
“F6 OCPA Board meeting agendas and staff reports are distributed at the last minute and Board meeting minutes are not always accurate, complete, or posted in a timely manner.”
True to form, the OCPA’s June 29, 2022 meeting minutes maintained their usual practice of omitting details pertaining to public comments.
The minutes of the June 29, 2022 OCPA meeting are missing descriptions of the public comments; only commenter names were provided. These comments were made by members of the public working to push the public agency in the right direction — away from mismanagement, incompetence, and further imposition of fines by the California Public Utilities Commision.
Here’s how public comments were reported in the OCPA’s June meeting Minutes:
In comparison, here is how public comments are reported in Irvine City Council meeting Minutes:
Per the TimesOC,
Doug Elliott, an attorney and blogger for Irvine Watchdog, criticized Probolsky’s whistleblower complaint.
“His attorney’s letter was tantamount to a declaration of war on the organization that employs him,” Elliott said. “The claim that he is a whistleblower is ludicrous.”
Dr. Kathleen Treseder, a UC Irvine biology professor and Irvine City Council candidate, also spoke in support of an executive leadership shakeup at the agency.
“I was a very enthusiastic supporter of OCPA before these issues with Probolsky and Baron came to light,” she said. “I would be happy to recommend that other cities join OCPA under different leadership.”
Doug Elliott’s public comment can be heard here:
Dr. Kathleen Treseder’s public comment can be heard here:
Walter Norbrega’s public comment can be heard here:
Branda Lin’s public comment can be heard here:
While some improvements in transparency have occurred in light of the investigation by the OCGJ, the OCPA continues to show that it needs oversight and threats of litigation in order to adhere to the Brown Act and Public Records Act. Both of these acts serve to preserve transparency and are vital for keeping corruption from undermining public agencies. The OCPA is not a private agency even if it prefers to act as one. The Grand Jury Report states:
“CCEs are public agencies subject to the Brown Act and the Public Records Act. Board meetings are open to the public. CCEs produce financial reports on an annual basis subject to third-party audit. Transparency, particularly financial transparency, helps keep corruption in check, bolsters public confidence in government, and promotes fiscal responsibility.
In the case of OCPA, a hint to the attitude of the CEO and OCPA Board Chair is reflected by the Chairman’s comment in the December 21, 2021, special meeting of the Board when the Chair [Mike Carroll] stated, “We’re not a typical agency; this is about as private as a public agency can get.” OCPA is not a private agency.”
The OCPA’s failure to include the public comments from the June 29 meeting shows the agency intends to continue flouting the rules intended to provide public access and transparency. As the OCPA prepares to enter another critical phase with the upcoming rollout of residential services in October, more scrutiny will be needed to ensure the OCPA comes clean.
The next OCPA Board meeting is Tuesday, July 12, 2022 at 10:00AM. To participate via Zoom or read the agenda click link here.
Branda LinJuly 10, 2022 at 8:40 am
Also of note: There is no financial report for this month and they want to create a legal ad hoc committee to advise staff on legal matters while NOT following the Brown Act. Per staff report, “ These are not Brown Act bodies.”
Branda LinJuly 10, 2022 at 11:13 am
Such a powerful public comment by Doug Elliott.
“The recent grand jury report confirmed major concerns that many of us have been voicing for months. The report makes it clear that immediate changes must be made in OCPA’s leadership if it’s going to remain viable. It was already clear that Mr. Probolsky must be terminated as CEO immediately. His attorney’s letter was tantamount to a declaration of war on the organization that employs him. Now that creates an untenable situation. The claim that he’s a whistleblower is ludicrous. It brings to mind Lincoln’s story of the defendant who killed his parents and then pleaded for mercy because he was an orphan.
Mr. Probolsky must be terminated for cause to avoid unjustly enriching him for the six figure golden parachute that’s provided in his contract he’s terminated without cause. I believe there’s ample good cause for such action. Mr. Probolsky has demonstrated his incompetence. He’s engaged in misconduct, including but not limited to his abusive treatment of Antonio Castro-Graham, which resulted in her resignation as Chief Operating Officer. OCPA lost the brains of the operation because of Probolsky’s misconduct. For him to be rewarded with six months salary a severance pay would be an unconscionable waste of precious public resources. The grand jury also placed blame on all CPAs general counsel and he too needs to be replaced. But you can’t stop here.
There’s an old saying that the fish rots from the head. Mr. Chairman, you’re the head. Last December you made the claim that OCPA is about as private as a public agency can get. I and others took you to task for that comment. Now the grand jury is joining in the criticism, emphasizing that the OCPA is not a private agency and is subject to laws requiring transparency in the conduct of public interest. Every step of the way, you’ve been a stubborn defender of the status quo at OCPA — a status quo that is unsustainable. Sometimes you’ve been belligerent and bullying in doing so. You need to resign both as Chair and as a member of the OCPA board and you need to do it now.”
Michelle JohnsonJuly 10, 2022 at 4:14 pm
This is their plan: ignore criticism from Grand Jury, launch residential service and hope an energy event doesn’t take them down. It worked for Marin Clean Energy who got out from under a scathing Grand Jury report that was titled “Pull the Plug” that recommended MCE disband. The only option we have is to “vote” with an opt out for as many residential users as possible.
My guess on why there was no financial report is a) largest commercial users opted down in energy tier and b) what to do with the CPUC fine of $2 million. Both items would show they are not on plan and cash reserves are being impacted by increasing legal costs.
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