Local News

Grand Jury Report Cites Leadership and Transparency Issues with OC Power Authority

A June 24 Orange County Grand Jury report entitled “Orange County Power Authority: Come Clean” lays out significant leadership and transparency concerns with this new public agency.

OCPA is a community choice energy (CCE) agency that was established in 2020 to give member cities a greater mix of renewable energy. Currently, OCPA’s members include Irvine, Fullerton, Huntington Beach, Buena Park, and unincorporated areas of Orange County.

Lack of CEO Experience

The report expresses concern with the lack of relevant experience of OCPA CEO Brian Probolsky.

The CEO had “virtually no employment experience with CCEs or energy purchase and trading prior to joining OCPA” and yet he oversees a $34 million budget, with “significant signing authority, little meaningful oversight, and no OCPA governing bylaws.”

The report contains a chart comparing Probolsky’s experience with other California CCE CEOs, which “have employed leaders with years of experience in the energy industry.”

Chart comparing CEO experience from the OC Grand Jury report.

Problems with Hiring Practices

The report states that best practices were not followed when hiring the CEO, as OCPA Board members were only presented with one option for the CEO and Chief Operating Officer.

“The position descriptions for COO and CEO were not made publicly available prior to the hiring decision,” the report states. “The job descriptions also lacked any requirement for prior education, experience, knowledge of the electrical utility or energy industries, or CCEs. Recruiting efforts were minimal at best, despite these public positions being highly demanding and very well compensated. This is not consistent with best practices. The positions require the public’s trust and, preferably, prior familiarity with CCEs.”

In contrast to the lack of experience of the CEO, the Chief Operating Officer Antonia Castro-Graham “had a strong and extensive background in the clean energy field and municipal participation in that field. Despite her job description, the COO was not given a role in the process of vetting, retaining, or working with outside contractors critical to OCPA’s operations. The COO resigned from OCPA on December 3, 2021, after less than a year of service.”

Transparency Issues

The Grand Jury report also cites numerous problems with OCPA transparency.

For example, “As of early April 2022, past the start date for commercial customers, neither the OCPA notices that were required to be mailed to customers, nor the OCPA website, contained any direct mention of the increased charges that would be incurred due to the default ‘green energy’ tiers selected by member cities for their businesses and residents.”

Findings of the Grand Jury include:

-OCPA has not properly implemented bylaws and other procedures to promote and ensure transparency.

-OCPA unreasonably delayed the formation of the CAC (Community Advisory Committee), has failed to properly utilize CAC member expertise, and has stifled the CAC from functioning as an advisory committee as intended.

-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.

“Until at least March 2022, after more than a year in operation and unlike other CCE’s, OCPA did not have budgets, financial statements, or rate comparisons published on its website,” the report states. “OCPA was reticent in providing this information when it was requested, and this documentation only appeared on the OCPA website after the OCGJ investigation and interviews were underway.”

The Grand Jury report includes recommendations to rectify these issues, and states, “The Orange County Grand Jury endorses OCPA’s mission and wants to see it flourish. The citizens of Orange County deserve and will benefit from sustainable energy. However, no matter the mission of a public agency, the ability to see how that agency operates and utilizes public funds is of paramount importance.”

The Grand Jury is awaiting a response from OCPA. Meanwhile, the City of Irvine has approved an audit of the OCPA, and other member cities, including Fullerton, have supported this.

There is also an ongoing investigation regarding a whistleblower complaint filed on behalf of Probolsky, alleging conspiracy to oust him by Board members.

Following the release of the Grand Jury Report, Probolsky released a letter challenging some of the claims made.

Regarding the claim that business customers weren’t given notice about rate increases, the letter states, “Prior to the April launch, OCPA included information including rates and a rate comparison tool on the OCPA website, which directly shows all costs associated with the different plans OCPA offers.”

In response to the Grand Jury’s assertion that “the CEO has nearly unchecked authority over an annual budget exceeding $34 million, power purchasing decisions, and the selection and oversight of all contractors,” the letter states:

“The CEO’s authority is not unchecked. The executive has limited authority over the budget, power purchasing decisions and selection and oversight of contractors as is largely reserved to the Board of Directors under the Joint Powers Agreement. The budget is approved by the Board not the CEO. The selection and oversight of contractors by the CEO is limited to $125,000…The selection of contractors over the CEO’s purchasing limit are selected by the Board, not the CEO.”

To read the full response letter click HERE.

The Grand Jury is awaiting an official response from the OCPA Board to their report.

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8 replies »

  1. Of course our city was involved in this sham “Power Authority”
    Isn’t our wonderful Mayor a member of the Board that should be providing oversight ?

    • You must not read anything other than the Observer!! Or you do not watch any of the council meetings!

    • It should be noted by the Observer that the findings of the OC Grand Jury are just that. They are “findings” based on a study performed by the Grand Jury members. Their findings are not statements of fact. They often get it wrong. But cities and other agencies are required by law to respond to their findings and recommendations. At times these findings and recommendations are determined to be accurate and they may be implemented by the cities and agencies. At other times the Grand Jury gets is wrong, and cities and agencies will explain to them why they got it wrong and will inform them that they will not implement their recommendations. Simply put, the Grand Jury members are not always experts in the field they are investigating. So this report should not be accepted as factual until the OCPA has the opportunity to fully reply. And nothing in this report indicates that the OCPA is a “sham”.

  2. 1964 No one cares to hear about what you think of my comments
    What do you have to say about the story ?

    • The article was good. Your comment was uninformed and incorrect. You should have kept it to yourself!

      • 1964-How about pointing out the informed part, why do you disagree with 1958? share please.

  3. Definition of sham: “A thing that is not what it is purported to be”
    I would say hat this is a fairly accurate description of the OCPA with one example being the false claim of lower cost.

  4. I am a Irvine resident and I can tell you that the OCPA is a sham. First, I will tell you what is just basic common sense. The OCPA does not produce power, they purchase it from power supply companies. What they purchase is then fed through our power lines and then into the Southern California Edison (SCE) grid. SCE then transmits the power to our homes and businesses. It comes from one grid…so what one gets, we all get. If you sign up for 50% renewable and your neighbor signs up for 100% renewable, your neighbor will be paying more for the same energy that you get. So their tiered plan is a fraud. When I confronted Climate Change activists about this, they said that I should be willing to pay more to clean the grid for all. Okay, even if I wanted to do that, I would have to assume that the OCPA is actually purchasing clean energy. In order to feed 100% renewable energy into the SCE grid we would need a backup storage facility to pull from when the sun goes down. Because we know that renewables need a backup system. And I don’t see any wind fields or battery farms around, do you? Storage for renewables has to be in close proximity or the power gets wasted the further it has to travel. So, the OCPA is purchasing cheap fossil fuel and charging us for renewable energy.

    Now, let’s look at the players in this sham. Mike Carroll, Chairman of the OCPA, who keeps himself in the background and for good reason. He can’t answer these allegations in the Grand Jury Report because they are all “factual”. And I know this and so do the Irvine residents who have been asking for transparency in the rates, and in their spending. Probolsky is nothing more than the fall guy.

    Mike Carroll used to work for a mortgage company called Sage Credit. He managed and operated it with the sole purpose of defrauding customers. He targeted senior citizens by telling them he could lower their monthly payments. Only after he got them to sign the loan documents did they realize the rates were inflated and he charged them excessive loan fees. He would also hold back his employees commission checks. The company was found liable of fraud and sued numerous times.

    During COVID, Mike Carroll claimed over $180,000 in relief funds for his law firm, Carroll & Carroll PC. In order to receive the funds he had to claim 4 employees making over $100,000 a year. According to his own records at the City, he has no employees, only listing himself and his wife. He has no office space, just a business address where he collects his mail.

    Then, while he was an appointed council member, he stole over $70,000 in taxpayer funds from the City of Irvine. He took it from a fund used to pay the salaries of city staff. He used the money to send out mailers to promote himself in the upcoming election. When he got caught by a fellow colleague, Mayor Farrah Khan covered it up. Khan was only able to recoup less than half, and had to lay off support staff.

    More recent, he lied about a company in order to get them approved for a huge city contract. When the company wasn’t going to follow through on the promise of shared revenue, an investigation was opened into Mike Carroll’s influence with the company. This is still ongoing.

    So, the OCPA is being run by a known con artist. There currently is an open FBI investigation into Mike Carroll and the OCPA. If you are familiar as to what went down in Anaheim, you should know that the apples don’t fall far from the trees. Melahat Rafiei, Farrah Khan, Mike Carroll, and Don Wagner are all major players in this scam, and there are probably more.

    If you are curious as to how much the OCPA board members make . . . according to the Joint Powers Agreement, OCPA board members are paid, not less than what the Orange County Sanitation District board members receive. And the highest paid member makes just under $20,000/year.

    OCPA ratepayers are being used as a slush fund, operated by city council members, consultants and a legal firm to enrich themselves.

    I would suggest to every resident and business to opt out now. Because once you are in, after their “grace period”, you will have to give a 6 months notice before returning to SCE, meanwhile paying whatever rate they decide to charge you. Unlike SCE, CCE’s rates are not regulated, only their resource adequacy. So they can change the rate you pay on a whim.

    To opt out call OCPA at 1-866-262-7693, options 1,4,2 … have your SCE account number handy.

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