A state lawmaker on Wednesday, March 1, called for the resignation of embattled Orange County Power Authority Executive Director Brian Probolsky, who was accused by state auditors of circumventing procurement policies in connection with $1.8 million in marketing and financial services contracts.
Sen. Dave Min, D-Irvine, said the scathing audit released Tuesday raises serious questions of potential fraud, self-dealing and corporate malfeasance within the OCPA, especially by Probolsky.
“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.
Min also urged the OCPA board to immediately authorize an outside independent investigation into Probolsky’s activities, including his hiring and any connections to the companies whose contracts were scrutinized by state auditors.
Probolsky declined to comment Wednesday on whether he will resign.
Fullerton Mayor Fred Jung, who currently serves as chair of the OCPA board, could not be reached for comment regarding whether any action will be taken against Probolsky.
OCPA officials have said auditors didn’t fully understand the legal intricacies of contracts approved by its board.
The OCPA launched as a green alternative to Southern California Edison nearly a year ago, with the city of Irvine spearheading its creation. Fullerton, Huntington Beach and Buena Park also signed on early to the county’s first community choice energy program. The agency also had been contracted to serve unincorporated communities of Orange County, but the Board of Supervisors decided in December to leave the program.
Three previous independent audits — including one from an Orange County grand jury — have raised questions about OCPA’s management, public communications and pricing strategies.
Additionally, three Democratic state Assembly members — Tom Daly of Anaheim, Cottie Petrie-Norris of Irvine and Sharon Quirk-Silva of Fullerton — signed on to the request.
Lawmakers asked for the audit amid allegations against OCPA regarding corruption, illegal closed-door meetings by its board and questionable electricity procurement practices.
Since 2020, the six legislators have received complaints about OCFA’s governance, operations, and basic competence, Umberg said.
“Additionally, part of the promise of OCPA was that it would provide cheaper energy, however, business consumers have reported that their rates have actually been more expensive than under Southern California Edison and have steadily increased over the last year,” he said in a statement.
Umberg noted that the California Public Utilities Commission levied a $1.96 million fine against OCPA in April 2022 for failing to purchase adequate electricity to avoid service interruptions last summer.
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State auditors reviewed a dozen OCPA contracts, uncovering potentially widespread problems with the agency’s procurement procedures.
Shortly after its formation, the agency established procurement policies that were later circumvented and violated, often by Probolsky, who issued and extended marketing and financial services contracts in excess of $125,000 without required board approval or competitive bidding, according to the audit.
The damaging audit should give Orange County residents pause, Umberg said.
“Among other things, OCPA’s misuse of marketing funds is of particular concern,” he said. “The agency should have used taxpayer dollars to educate the public about forthcoming changes, possible price fluctuations, and the ability to opt out of OCPA services. Instead, OCPA seems to have used these monies to craftily conceal vital information from consumers.”
Newman said the audit findings reveal a “disconcerting pattern of deception and a level of mismanagement bordering on misconduct.”
“My colleagues and I will continue to monitor OCPA’s actions moving forward to ensure that they address the concerns outlined in the audit and implement reforms that deliver on the promises originally made to Orange County ratepayers,” he said.