OC Power Authority to address transparency issues today

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Orange County Power Authority board members are set to respond to a grand jury investigation slamming them for a lack of transparency and demands from OC supervisors for an independent audit of their work today. today.

At its Tuesday meeting, the OCPA is expected to deny any lack of transparency and approve several policy changes from its board of directors, as well as more than $200 million in power contracts.

To watch the board meeting at 10 a.m. today, Click here.

Since its inception towards the end of 2020, the agency has been plagued with questions about transparency and whether or not the agency’s management is qualified to oversee the day-to-day running of a provider. electricity.

[Read: OC Clean Power Agency’s First Year Sees an Executive Resignation, Transparency Concerns]

The grand jury reaffirmed those concerns when it reviewed the agency in a report released earlier this year.

“There was a pattern of failure and/or resistance to providing information to Council, even when the information was specifically requested,” the jurors wrote. “The information has been made equally inaccessible to member cities and the public.”

To read the full report, Click here.

The agency is expected to begin providing electricity to residents of Buena Park, Fullerton, Huntington Beach and Irvine next month, with the goal of bringing more renewable energy to residents at a slightly higher cost. Residents are automatically registered.

Unincorporated Orange County is expected to begin receiving power in late 2023.

In the Power Authority’s grand jury response released over Labor Day weekend, agency staff “totally disagreed” with nearly every recommendation offered by the grand jury, saying the hiring of their CFO Tiffany Law and comptroller Owen Lee had corrected any lack of expertise on personnel and they were fully compliant with transparency laws.

Although fully compliant with Brown’s Law, which requires agency agendas to be posted at least 72 hours before the meeting, the electric authority is known to come closer to that deadline than any other city or county agency, usually posting agendas on Friday night or Saturday for their upcoming Tuesday meetings.

By comparison, most towns that hold their meetings on Tuesdays typically post the agenda on Thursday of the previous week or earlier, with other towns posting no later than Friday.

Staff also argued that they don’t need any further bylaws because they have policies in place that help guide staff and board management.

“The Grand Jury Report’s finding that the OCPA failed to properly enact ‘Bylaws,’ appears to place form over substance and ignores the existence of these previously enacted policies,” the staff wrote.

But the board is also expected to discuss amendments to its joint powers agreement today, reducing the terms of future board members from four to two years.

They also discuss eliminating their policy that new board members don’t have voting rights until the agency begins empowering them — a rule that hasn’t been implementation for Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner when he joined the board last year after the deadline to be a charter member had passed away.

County supervisors are also considering pulling out of the agency ahead of its 2023 launch date, citing the many concerns around the agency and demanding their own audit of the agency’s work to determine whether they will stay.

[Read: County Demands Investigation of OC’s New Green Power Agency, Under Threat of Withdrawing]

They are not the first to call for an audit: the city of Irvine is already conducting one of the agency’s pre-launch operations.

[Read: City Leaders Approve Audits of Orange County’s Green Power Agency]

In their proposed response to county leaders, staff asked the county not to hire a third-party auditor to review their books and instead collaborate with Irvine’s audit, but said they would be willing. to meet a third listener.

The agency also sought authority to appoint an auditor of its choosing with the approval of county CEO Frank Kim to conduct a review of their power purchase agreements, saying it would be a “complex undertaking “, due to the amount of confidential information. .

“While OCPA may provide copies of its power purchase agreements and confirmations, all pricing and market-sensitive information contained in these documents is subject to redaction,” wrote the staff. “We are proposing that OCPA hire a consultant who has never worked with OCPA…to conduct a review.”

If the OC supervisors decide to withdraw from the Electricity Authority, it is still unclear what the impacts would be since the agency purchases electricity for its members all at once.

“It is not possible to separate the costs that were incurred by a specific member,” reads the authority’s response.

The agency has also promised to delay the county’s purchasing power for as long as possible, but it cannot guarantee that there will not be additional expenditures from the county.

Board members must also approve two power contracts today, one with Southern California Edison and Shell Energy.

There is no information on the amount of electricity purchased or the exact cost of the Edison contract, with agency staff saying it will be reassessed annually.

Under current terms, the contract with Edison is expected to cost $36.5 million according to the staff report. The contract is due to run until September 2041, and this price covers the “full cost of the contract”, according to the staff report.

The Shell contract is for 12 years, purchasing hydroelectric, solar and wind power, at a total cost of $176.5 million.

Board members were set to discuss again whether or not to fire their controversial CEO Brian Probolsky, but the item was dropped from the agenda over the weekend, along with a discussion of “early litigation” against the agency.

When the board last discussed firing Probolsky, the discussion was delayed to bring in an outside investigator to look into a whistleblower complaint he filed alleging dual use and bribery by current and former members. advice.

[Read: OC Green Power Agency Holds Off On Firing CEO and Legal Counsel, Citing Investigation]

Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and a body member of Report for America, an initiative of Groundtruth. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @NBiesiada.

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