The years-long relationship between the OC Power Authority and the city of Irvine could be coming to an end this Valentine’s Day after Councilwoman Kathleen Treseder announced she was moving forward with a vote to pull out of the agency.
Treseder, who was originally one of the biggest proponents of the agency, said she ultimately decided to leave after the rest of the energy agency’s board voted down her proposal Friday to bring in outside attorneys to help replace controversial CEO Brian Probolsky.
“That has signaled to me the board is not prepared to make the necessary changes to our CEO,” Treseder said in a Friday phone interview. “I’m devastated by today’s decision.”
Irvine represents around 47% of the agency’s customers according to a recent report from agency staff, and was the city who started the authority in 2020 with the goal of providing cheaper, renewable energy to residents across the county.
Treseder said two things are needed for Irvine to stay: Replace Probolsky and replace the Best, Best & Krieger law firm.
The upcoming Feb.14 discussion to pull out comes as the agency tries to process a slew of critical audits that question a lack of transparency, inadequate contract oversight and the county government’s decision to pull out of the agency last year.
[Read: Cloudy Contracts, Audits and Lost County Support: A Rough Year For OC’s Green Power Agency]
It also puts a spotlight on both Treseder and the agency’s controversial CEO, Brian Probolsky.
Calls for Probolsky’s resignation began almost the day he was hired in 2020, with activists questioning why the agency hired a CEO with no experience in the electrical industry or a college degree to run the start up.
While board members have discussed firing Probolsky numerous times, including after he filed a whistleblower complaint against them alleging corruption, they’ve never pulled the trigger.
[Read: Chaos Grips OC’s Green Power Agency, CEO Under Fire, Files Whistleblower Complaint]
On Friday, OC Power Authority Board members were originally set to choose an interim general counsel at their meeting on Friday, but delayed the vote to Feb. 15.
While Treseder only has one vote on the city council, she was the swing vote in the council’s 3-2 decision last December to stay in the agency and try to clean it up, with plans to return in June and make a final decision on whether or not to stay in.
[Read: Irvine Leaders Stick With Embattled Green Power Agency, Commit to Cleaning It Up]
But shortly after that vote, Treseder said if she didn’t see major changes in her first month on the board, she’d agendize a discussion for the council’s Feb. 14 meeting to pull out.
She scheduled the withdrawal vote weeks ahead of the power authority’s Friday board meeting.
[Read: Irvine Councilwoman Threatens To Pull City Out of Green Power Agency if CEO Isn’t Replaced]
If approved at Irvine’s City Council meeting on Tuesday, the city would formally begin the process of pulling out and formally exit the OC Power Authority in July 2024.
At a special power authority board meeting on Friday, she asked for the board to hire a new lawyer that would help with Probolsky’s exit.
Fullerton Mayor Fred Jung, who serves as the chair of the board, said he felt they didn’t need special counsel if they decided to fire him and they were “a little over our skis at this point.”
“It is the board’s responsibility to hire and relieve the CEO, I don’t think it requires special counsel,” Jung said. “We should first agendize the item (Probolsky’s removal), and number two hire a recruiting firm to do an in depth search.”
Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner, who still holds a seat on the board after the county voted to pull out of the power authority in December, called the move “amateurish,” and pointed out how the board has voted against firing Probolsky in the past.
“I think we’ve got this way ahead of the actual decision by this board. Are we in fact going to make a move against any particular member of staff?” Wagner said. “We’re away ahead of ourselves.”
The agency’s general counsel Ryan Baron resigned earlier this week, citing repeated personal attacks against him, but Best Best & Krieger are still the agency’s contracted law firm.
[Read: OC Green Power Agency’s Top Lawyer Resigns Before Possibly Being Fired]
While Buena Park Councilman Jose Trinidad-Castaneda floated the possibility of searching for and hiring a new legal firm in the next few weeks, the idea was shot down by board members including Treseder on Friday, who said she felt like Castaneda was moving too fast to find a new lawyer.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.
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