OC Power Authority (OCPA) is the agency tasked with cutting global warming emissions in Orange County by providing renewable energy choices through SoCal Edison transmission lines. According to a June 2022 OC Grand Jury Report, the board made some bad first steps, including selecting an inexperienced CEO to head the $34 million agency without considering any other candidate for the top position. The report pointed out a lack of transparency, oversight, and bylaws, inadequate record keeping, and a series of unfavorable audits since its launch in 2020.
Environmental groups have called for changes, and the OC Board of Supervisors announced its withdrawal in Dec. 2022 in a 3-2 vote (no votes were from Supervisors Do and Wagner (who also sits on the OCPA board)).
The June Grand Jury Report concluded that if changes were made, OCPA could become viable. However, few improvements have been made to date, and the board majority attempted to look into firing OCPA CEO Probolsky (former OC Supervisor Andrew Do’s Chief of Staff) have failed so far. After the last attempt, Probolsky filed a whistleblower complaint against Huntington Beach representatives Dan Kalmick and Mike Posey, claiming a conspiracy to push him out and alleging Brown Act violations. The results of that lawsuit have not been released.
Fullerton is an agency member, and Mayor Fred Jung chairs the board with representatives from Buena Park, Huntington Beach, and the city of Irvine (which provided funding to start the agency and has 47% of OCPA customers). Last month Irvine City Councilmember Kathleen Treseder notified fellow board members that Irvine was set to discuss pulling out of OC Power Authority unless both the attorney firm and CEO were fired and other changes to improve transparency and contract oversight were made. Due to actions taken at the February 15 OCPA board meeting, Irvine has decided to stay involved for now.
Actions taken at that meeting included removing CEO Probolsky from board positions as secretary and manager of records and hiring a new law firm that would report to the board but not the CEO. In addition, the board voted to begin a search for candidates to replace the well-qualified Chief Operating Officer Antonia Castro-Graham, who resigned in December 2021.
In the closed session following the public meeting, the board selected Nicolas Norbel as interim general counsel while the search for a permanent law firm is conducted. The board also discussed replacing the current “weighted vote system” (which is based on how much energy each city uses) – with a system that would give an equal vote to each participating city. The change would require amending the Joint Power Agreement and will be brought back to the March 15 meeting, which can be viewed online at www.ocpower.org.
Fullerton City Councilmember Ahmad Zahra said, “I have been asking for updates on the OC Power Authority for months. There has been much turmoil in that agency. The County of Orange has officially pulled out, and the state has also been auditing them with disturbing findings, another thing we were not informed about. We seem to get more answers from the media than from the Mayor, who currently chairs the OCPA board. They owe our residents full transparency. I have asked for immediate answers to Fullerton’s Opt-out rate and a full public review and update on OCPA. Both Councilmember Dunlap and myself asked to agendize that at the next meeting.”