Orange County’s green power agency could lose its biggest member after Irvine Councilwoman Kathleen Treseder threatened to vote in favor of pulling out of the agency if the current CEO and legal counsel aren’t gone by the end of January.
“In order to reform OCPA, the first steps are to replace the CEO and the general counsel,” Treseder said at Tuesday’s OC Power Authority board meeting.
“If we have replaced the CEO and general counsel then I expect I will vote to stay.”
Last month, Irvine leaders voted on whether or not they’d stay in the power authority, with Treseder casting the deciding vote that left the new council in a 3-2 split to stay in the agency they founded.
At the time, the council agreed to stay in for another six months and then discuss withdrawing again, giving some time for the agency to course correct after years of transparency concerns and a series of audits that highlighted major problems.
Since its launch at the end of 2020, the power authority has been repeatedly criticized by environmental activists and residents for a lack of transparency, and the county government chose to pull out last month over those concerns.
The brunt of those complaints have fallen at the feet of Brian Probolsky, the agency’s controversial CEO whose tenure has been a constant question for the board of directors.
Probolsky was hired by the board in Dec. 2020 on the recommendation of Ryan Baron, the agency’s general counsel, despite having no experience in the electrical industry or a college degree and multiple ethics investigations into his work for the county government.
After she was appointed vice chair at Tuesday’s board meeting, Treseder said she would call for a special Irvine City Council meeting in February to change her vote unless both Probolsky and Baron are fired by the board.
The final costs for the city of Irvine to pull out remain unknown, but city staff estimate it could run as high as $145 million if no mitigation measures are taken.
Last June, it looked like Probolsky might get fired after multiple board members announced plans to remove him, citing a lack of trust in the community.
But after their announcement, Probolsky filed a whistleblower complaint alleging board members wanted him gone to carry out their own corrupt plans.
The board brought in an outside investigator to review Probolsky’s claims, but the results of the investigation have not been made public.
In November, board members voted not to fire Probolsky and instead gave him “measurable objectives and directions for the agency,” but his new instructions were never released publicly.
There was also a discussion behind closed doors over firing Baron last year, but the board ultimately took no action.
Irvine city leaders haven’t discussed pulling out the power authority since their December meeting, but at the time Treseder was the only vote who was up in the air.
Mayor Farrah Khan and Councilwoman Tammy Kim, who also serves on the agency’s board, said that while there are problems, they can be fixed.
“Can it be more transparent? Yes. Can it have better qualified personnel? Yes. Are we able to achieve those if we work collaboratively? Yes,” Khan said.
But Councilmen Larry Agran and Mike Carroll, who previously served as the chair of the agency’s board, both said it was time to get out, with Carroll bringing up concerns over the county pulling out and Huntington Beach considering jumping ship as well.
“The worry we have is that if we don’t do this, Irvine gets caught holding the bag at the end of the story,” Carroll said. “I don’t really see a way out.”
Treseder, who was one of the activists that helped start the OC Power Authority, said that while she wanted to see reforms, they couldn’t happen with Probolsky there.
“I’m committed to fixing OCPA,” Treseder said. “I cannot in good faith allow the city to remain in OCPA as long as (Probolsky) is CEO.”
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at email@example.com.
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