An increasing number of city leaders are beginning to question the Orange County Power Authority after scathing audits highlighted a systemic lack of transparency and poorly managed contracts.

Many city council members in different cities said they weren’t aware of exactly how big the problems at the agency are.

And the council members don’t know how much it would cost to bail out of the controversial Power Authority because staff refused to provide them solid information. 

When the power agency launched at the end of 2020, it was with the promise of delivering cleaner, cheaper power to cities that signed on, pledging to be a competitive alternative to Southern California Edison that would help cities meet their climate goals faster. 

But a lot of city leaders aren’t happy with what they got, with many now asking what it could cost them to leave the agency altogether. 

“Every single one of those promises was broken, right out of the gate,” said Councilman Larry Agran at an Irvine City Council meeting on Feb. 28. “It was the failure of full transparency from the very beginning that told me this thing is going sideways.” 

Fullerton Councilman Ahmad Zahra, who was one of the leading voices for the city to join the agency, said he wasn’t even aware the agency was being audited by the California State Auditor until he saw it in the news. 

[Read: State Auditor Lambasts OC’s Green Energy Agency Over Transparency and Contracting]

“We were the first city to join and things were not supposed to go this way,” Zahra said in an interview. “I find it egregious that I have to find out this information from the press.” 

Zahra said he’s been asking for answers on how much it would cost to pull Fullerton out of the beleaguered Power Authority and what the consequences could be.

Yet after two months of asking, Zahra said he’s received no answers.

OC Power Authority staff are now set to give the Fullerton City Council a presentation at their March 21 meeting, but have declined to give any answers in writing to the city according to City Manager Eric Levitt. 

“We still seem to be getting our information only from the press,” Zahra wrote in an email to Levitt on March 1 that he provided to Voice of OC. “On behalf of the residents that I represent, I am demanding immediate answers to my questions.”

The issue has even got attention from state leaders, with state Senator Dave Min publicly calling for CEO Brian Probolsky to resign.

“I am calling for the immediate resignation of Mr. Probolsky, and if he does not step down, I would urge the Board of Directors at OCPA to fire him,” Min said in a statement. “OCPA’s Board of Directors should immediately authorize an outside independent investigation into the origins and activities of OCPA and Mr. Probolsky.”

“I believe strongly in local control, but if these steps do not occur, I believe that our state legislature has a role to play to protect the taxpayers and ratepayers we represent, and I will seek intervention from the state of California.”

Huntington Beach City Council members have started talking with staff about what it would take for them to pull out, but so far they say there hasn’t been much information. 

“Since we’ve been sworn in, it’s been extremely frustrating dealing with the OCPA,” said Councilman Casey McKeon, who also sits on the authority’s board. “The crux of the issue is we need to understand … these contracts that were purchased on behalf of Huntington Beach.” 

After years of requests to see the power purchasing contracts, power authority staff are now preparing to enter a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA, with the city so they can figure out what’s been bought on their behalf.  

In a statement, the agency declined to state which cities were offered the non-disclosure agreements, but both Irvine and Huntington Beach said they’re negotiating what a potential NDA could look like.  

Agency staff also said there are no estimates for how much it would cost any members to pull out, including the county government who announced they’d be leaving in July 2023.  

County auditors estimated the cost at a maximum of $65 million, but said the final costs would be up to the agency and would depend on when the power was sold. 

[Read: OC Supervisors Pull Plug on Green Energy Agency Over Transparency Concerns]

“If a member agency does withdraw, then an analysis would be done,” said spokesperson Joe Mosca. “That analysis would take place if, and when they withdraw.” 

While the county formally left the agency – taking electricity customers in unincorporated OC with it – Irvine and Huntington Beach leaders have also repeatedly been weighing the question in recent city council meetings. 

The agency is also set to receive its fifth audit in the near future, this time from the City of Irvine, but city manager Oliver Chi said getting answers on the agency’s operations was a “continual issue,” since its founding and during the city’s audit. 

Irvine city manager Oliver Chi says that it’s been almost impossible to get information out of the power authority for much of its history, but that they’ve made improvements in the last two months following the release of scathing audits calling them out for a lack of transparency. 

[Read: Cloudy Contracts, Audits and Lost County Support: A Rough Year For OC’s Green Power Agency]

“They’ve always been responsive in taking our calls, but in getting the information requested or understanding what the power authority has been doing, that’s challenging,” Chi said. ”It’s been a welcome change, it probably has something to do with a different expectation level given the current board composition.”

Chi said their final report had to “infer,” a lot of information they could find from public sources, and that the agency refused to turn over “multiple things related to core operational documents and financial information.” 

The report is expected to be publicly released in mid-March.

Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at or on Twitter @NBiesiada.


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