Leaders of Orange County’s green power agency kicked the decision on firing CEO Brian Probolsky on Tuesday, again extending the discussion on whether or not to remove their controversial top employee.
Board members of the Orange County Power Authority have been talking about firing Probolsky since at least June.
The board discussed Probolsky’s future at the power agency in a closed door meeting Tuesday, which stretched for nearly two hours until they announced a special meeting scheduled for Nov. 7 – one day before the election – to consider firing him.
Since its inception at the tail end of 2020, the Orange County Power Authority has been dogged by questions around transparency and concerns over Probolsky’s expertise, given that he had never worked in the electrical industry before and does not have a college degree.
When the cities of Irvine, Fullerton, Huntington Beach and Buena Park signed on as founding members, it was with the promise of providing cheaper, cleaner power to residents than Southern California Edison.
But the agency’s prices ultimately ended up being on par or more expensive than Edison, and there were complaints from business owners and residents throughout the four cities over a lack of outreach that they were automatically enrolled in the program, which is required by state law.
Meanwhile, there’s three separate ongoing audits by state, county and city officials, with the Orange County Board of Supervisors threatening to pull out altogether if their demands for an open review aren’t met.
Those audits all came on the heels of a grand jury report titled “OC Power Authority: Come Clean,” that was the first official report to document concerns around expertise and transparency, which the power authority’s board vehemently disputed.
Many of those complaints ended up focused on Probolsky, with questions on how he was earning a $239,000 salary despite no relevant experience.
Before coming to the power authority, Probolsky held multiple positions at the county government and was investigated multiple times for ethics violations, and was sanctioned for clocking time at his county job while also working as a board member of the Moulton-Niguel Water District.
Questions around just how long Probolsky’s tenure at the power authority would be have been brewing for months after a majority of the board said they wanted to discuss firing him in June amidst questions of how they’d handled the public rollout of the agency.
“Residents and businesses don’t know who we are and other elected officials aren’t interested in doing business with us,” said board member Dan Kalmick in a phone interview announcing the push to remove Probolsky. “We tend to operate as a rather opaque organization.”
Shortly after that announcement, Probolsky filed a whistleblower complaint alleging multiple current and former board members wanted him removed so they could execute their own schemes.
The board then delayed any discussion on firing him until a review of the allegations in the whistleblower complaint was completed.
There has been no discussion on the status of the investigation into Probolsky’s complaint, and no statement by board members as to whether or not the results will be publicly released.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a Groundtruth initiative. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @NBiesiada.
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