OCPA to Vote on Generous Executive Benefits and Set Electricity Rates January 11th

On Tuesday, January 11th, the OC Power Authority (OCPA) board of directors is expected to consider a personnel policy with generous benefits for CEO Brian Probolsky and other executives that will be paid for by Irvine taxpayers and borrowed credit for the first few years of the program. The benefits exceed those of other Community Choice Energy (CCE) programs in California.

Under the proposed policy, “C-level” executives will start out with more than 10 weeks paid leave – 80 hours more than other employees, along with a $500/month auto stipend, extra health benefits and an option for employees to cash out 50% of their unused time off.

CEO Probolsky, who has no experience in the energy industry, no college degree, and recently brought significant risk of litigation to OCPA due to his behavior toward recently-resigned COO Antonia Castro-Graham, currently draws a salary of $239,000 — $87k/year higher than it was in 2020 when he worked at the county. Probolsky, a long time political operative served as chief of staff to three different Orange County supervisors.

OCPA will use Irvine taxpayer money and borrowed credit to pay for the executive benefits for the next few years until the program generates enough revenue to pay for them.

The executive benefits were on the agenda at the December 21, 2021 OCPA board meeting, but were not approved because General Counsel Ryan Baron said it was brought to his attention that, “State law does not allow executive compensation in the form of fringe benefits to be approved at a special meeting,” saying the executive benefits were mistakenly placed on the agenda due to his error.

The personnel policy also gives the CEO unilateral and unlimited discretion to blacklist and fire employees, according to Irvine resident Doug Elliott who said during the meeting that in 45 years as a labor attorney, he has seldom seen such an anti-worker personnel policy.

Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) sent a letter to the OCPA board of directors on Friday, January 7th raising concerns about the policy and Probolsky’s “OCPA Leadership Bullying & Proposed Benefits.”  Other organizations recently sent similar letters raising concerns about OCPA including the National Women’s Political Caucus Orange County and Women for American Values and Ethics called for an investigation of OCPA workplace harassment and inequity.

According to the Voice of OC, at the board’s December 21 special meeting discussing employee benefits, multiple board members spoke up and said that everything is different at the agency because it’s not a regular public agency, despite being funded exclusively by Irvine taxpayers at this time. 

“We’re not in a typical public agency,” said board chair and Irvine City Councilman Mike Carroll. “This is not a civil service…this is about as private as a public agency can get.”
Board member Mike Posey agreed with him. “Our income comes from the ratepayers, not the taxpayers.”

Community Choice Energy (CCE) Personnel Policy Comparison

At the December 21st meeting, recently appointed CFO Tiffany Law stated, “San Diego offers the same, two weeks for directors and above” and Counsel for the OCPA Ryan Baron stated, “I believe San Diego offers the equivalent here for their executives.”

The table below compares the benefits proposed by OCPA to those of three other CCEs — 3CE, Silicon Valley CE and San Diego Community Power.  According to the staff report, OCPA consulted 3CE and SVCE’s policies as they created their policy.  The OCPA staff report also says they consulted East Bay Community Energy, but we could not find the EBCE employee handbook or summary of benefits.

Benefits that are the most generous of those compared or disproportionately benefit C-level executives are in bold .  A few of the benefits tied for first.  Click on the links at the top of the table to see source documents.

OCPA 3CE (Central Coast Community Energy, formerly known as Monterey Bay Community Power) Silicon Valley CE San Diego Community Power (Oct 2020)
SDCP benefit summary (Jan 2021)
SDCP employee handbook
Launch Date April 2022 (scheduled) March 2018 April 2017 March 2021
401(a) Retirement Benefits Mandatory 10% employer contribution. Replaces 6.2% contribution to Social Security. Fully vested from date of hire. Matching contribution of 10% to each employee’s mandatory contribution in lieu of Social Security taxes. Mandatory 10% employee contribution matched by 10% employer contribution. Fully vested from date of hire. 10% employer salary match (vested after 3 years); any excess beyond IRS limits go to a 457
Employer match for 457(b) retirement plan Employer match up to 4% NONE NONE SDCP deferred compensation contribution equal to 10% of Employee’s Base Salary.
Vesting schedule: year 1 – 20%, gradually increases to 100% in year 5
Paid Time Off (PTO) for full-time employees who work more than 40 hrs/wk  Year 1: 180 hours per year
Year 2+: increases an additional 8 hours per year, up to 10 years of employment
Year 1: 180 hours per year
Year 2+: increases an additional 8 hours per year, up to 10 years of employment
Year 1: 160 hours accrued bi-weekly. PTO includes vacation, sick, etc.
Year 2+: increases an additional 8 hours per year, up to 10 years of employment
Years 1-2: 160 Hours
Years 3-4: 180 hours
Years 5+: 220 Hours
Maximum amount of PTO an employee may accrue is 40 hours above their annual accrual rate.
Sick Leave Included in PTO (above) Included in PTO (above) Included in PTO (above) Accrued per pay period. Annual Accrual – 96 hours (8 hours/mo). Max Accrual 175 Hours.
PTO Cash-out Option Annual election to cash out up to 50% of annual accrued PTO hours NONE NONE Vacation time only – In Dec., employees w minimum 120 hours accumulated vacation leave and at least 5 years employment may irrevocably elect how much, if any, vacation leave to be earned in the following calendar year to cash out at the end of that year. The cash out amount elected will be compensated by SDCP to the extent the accumulated balance at year end does not drop below the minimum of 120 hours.
Paid Holidays 12 10 10 11
Executive Leave 80 hours annually for C-level executives NONE Exempt employees receive an additional 40 hours of Management Leave at the beginning of each calendar year, which does not carry over to the next year. 4 weeks annual leave, incl. of sick time

2 weeks exec leave (Director and above)

Last week of Dec closed with pay

(per Benefits Comparison Chart dated Oct. 2020)

Holiday Closure Christmas – New Year’s Day (four or five days) NONE Christmas – New Year’s Day (four or five days) Dec. 24-31 (six days)
Total paid days off for C-level executives in year 1 48.5-49.5 32.5 (all employees) 39.5 (exempt employees) 49 (all employees)
Auto Stipend $500 per month for C-level executives NONE NONE NONE – Reimbursement incentive to use public transportation up to $150/mo (all employees)
Flexible Spending Account Employee funded by payroll deduction.
Employer contributes $200 per month for C-level executives. 
Employer may contribute a Board approved amount to eligible employees Flexible Spending Account (FSA). SVCE contributes $200 / month toward all employees’ flexible spending accounts that can be used for qualified expenses in specified categories. Flex spending for health and dependent care.

OCPA to Set Rates

The Voice of OC reported, the power authority is set to hit the ground running at the start of this year, with plans to set their official rates on January. 11. While agency leaders have claimed over the past several years the authority would be able to offer power at slightly lower prices than Southern California Edison, it remains unclear if they will be able to follow through on that promise.

Member cities will also be choosing which of the three power options to offer their residents as the default option, giving residents a choice of 38%, 70% and 100% renewable energy.

The agenda for the January 11th OCPA meeting can be found here. To attend the meeting via Zoom click here.

Correction: Information regarding San Diego Community Power’s executive benefits has been updated based on a comparison of their October 2020 Benefits Comparison chart and their January 2021 Exempt Employees Benefits Summary.