City leaders in Irvine and Huntington Beach are calling for an audit of the green power agency they created, saying it has failed to be transparent with the public and city leaders.
The calls for an audit of the OC Power Authority came after a majority of the board of directors tried to call a meeting to consider firing their controversial CEO Brian Probolsky, who then filed a whistleblower complaint against them alleging corruption and double dealing to take over the agency.
But before they could talk about taking any action, the agency’s top lawyer Ryan Baron shut down the conversation.
Baron says that Huntington Beach Councilman Dan Kalmick, who was appointed as the city’s representative on the agency’s board last month, was improperly appointed and therefore can’t vote to call a special meeting – echoing a claim made by Probolsky in his whistleblower letter that Kalmick’s appointment violated open meeting laws.
To read the letter, click here.
Without Kalmick’s vote, there isn’t a majority willing to call for a discussion on Probolsky’s employment.
“I’m not sure what game is being played by OCPA’S Counsel, but the City of Huntington Beach won’t be left without representation on the OCPA Board,” Kalmick said in a text message.
In its early days, Baron suggested Probolsky for the role of CEO and also suggested Antonia Castro-Graham, the agency’s former chief operating officer who quit at the end of last year.
Baron did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
And when board president and Irvine Councilman Mike Carroll tried to call a special meeting to talk about the issue behind closed doors on June 2 with just over 24 hours notice to the rest of the board, they didn’t show up to the meeting, and the meeting was canceled due to a lack of quorum.
The power authority was originally created in 2020 by the cities of Buena Park, Fullerton, Huntington Beach and Irvine with the goal of offering renewable energy at cheaper rates than Edison, but that vision hasn’t panned out.
Member cities are already receiving power for businesses, with a residential rollout scheduled for October.
Questions around the agency’s management under Probolsky have continued to grow, including the abrupt resignation of chief operating officer Castro-Graham last December, a price hike with the agency’s rollout after it was promised it would be cheaper than Southern California Edison, a $1.9 million from the California Public Utilities Commission and ongoing questions over the agency’s lack of transparency.
While the agency is governed by appointed council members from each city involved and supervisors from the county, representatives haven’t been able to talk about the issues this month.
Instead, they’re doing it at their individual council meetings tonight.
Individual council members like Irvine Councilman Larry Agran and Huntington Beach Councilman Erik Peterson have publicly questioned the agency’s work for months, but the agency’s work has been rarely discussed from the council dais.
When Agran began calling for a discussion or potential audit on the agency in September 2021, none of his colleagues would grant him the support to put it on the agenda until Mayor Farrah Khan, who also serves on the agency’s board, reversed her position and supported the move.
In their memo to city manager Oliver Chi, Agran wrote the time had come to discuss the city’s potential legal liability as the primary funder of the agency.
“The Orange County Power Authority has faced calls for transparency for more than a year. These calls have gone unheeded,” Agran wrote in a letter Khan signed onto. “It is clear that the Orange County Power Authority requires immediate public attention and urgent oversight.”
Following Irvine’s announcement of that discussion, the Huntington Beach City Council convened a special meeting for tonight to discuss “an apparent lack of transparency at the Orange County Power Authority,” and to support calls for an audit of the agency that would be publicly released.
County supervisor Katrina Foley also called for a review of the agency during the supervisors meeting last week, a move her colleagues unanimously supported.
The Irvine City Council is set to begin discussing the issue at 3:00 p.m. today, with Huntington Beach scheduled to begin their conversations at 6:00 p.m. behind closed doors before publicly discussing the issue.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporter and corps member for Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @NBiesiada.
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