Utilities Agency Reforms Still Pending
by Jeff McDonald, San Diego Union-Tribune
When thousands of emails between Pacific Gas & Electric and the California Public Utilities Commission were released in September, showing close relationships between regulators and the power companies they are entrusted to oversee, state officials pledged reform.
Then-President Michael Peevey requested and received the immediate resignation of his chief of staff, Carol Brown, who had told utility executives that she would help get a more favorable judge assigned to one of their proceedings.
Regulators promised they would review their practices to guard against future violations and assured ratepayers that the commission’s integrity was intact. Peevey recused himself from the PG&E case at issue and stepped down at the end of his term in December.
More than eight months later, no employee discipline beyond Brown’s has been made publicly known, and some of those involved in questionable communications have been promoted.
New commission president Michael Picker, a former aide to Gov. Jerry Brown whose nomination is pending Senate approval, has engaged in backchannel communications himself, as reported by U-T San Diego in March.
And Brown, who was singled out in the commission’s September news release, never left the state payroll — at least not until a week or two ago, when she voluntarily resigned her new job as a $10,000-a-month aide to the agency’s water division chief.