In a letter written to the California Joint Legislative Committee, Senator Tom Umberg requested the state perform an “emergency audit” on the business practices inside the Orange County Power Authority. Umberg’s request becomes the third involving the authority, as both the City of Irvine and the O.C. Board of Supervisors have filed separate requests for audits of the.
In his letter, which was signed by five other senators including Sharon Quirk-Silva, Cottie Petrie-Norris and Dave Min, Umberg references allegations of corruption along with “questionable electricity procurement practices” as core concerns for the agency to adequately and legally provide power to customers.
“There is deep concern, at this point, about the long-term viability of OCPA. It has failed to disclose actual revenues and expenses as measured against projections. Many public records requests from individuals and city council members have been ignored or denied. Many complaints from local businesses have also been received regarding a lack of notice regarding the process to opt-out of OCPA’s services,” a portion of Umberg’s letter read.
Umberg’s demands were specifically expedited based on legislation within Rule 17 of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, which caps audits of this nature at $190,000.
“We have prioritized the audit objectives we are proposing below, with #1 being the highest priority and #8 being the relatively lowest priority:
- Determine why there was a failure to fully disclose revenues and expenditures, what those expenditures are, and who received those funds.
- OCPA has purchased half a billion dollars worth of electricity, and the terms of those power purchasing agreements remain unclear. We ask the auditor to review what OCPA’s power purchasing agreements and practices.
- Determine what OCPA’s projections were for revenue and assess whether those projections were achieved.
- Determine the loss of revenue from customers who opted-out or opted-down.
- Determine if there were Brown Act violations.
- Determine what the hiring practices and standards are for officers.
- Determine how notice was provided to customers that explained how to opt-out of OCPA services.
- Assess the long-term viability of OCPA.”
Umberg also cites issues of transparency within the agency, adding that public records requests are being “ignored or denied.”
In fact, on Wednesday, Sept. 21, Irvine Weekly asked Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan, who serves on the OCPA Board of Directors, for any comment on the latest audit request for the agency via text message.
Khan did not respond to Irvine Weekly’s text messages regarding Umberg’s letter. The mayor also did not respond to a question regarding OCPA’s protocol for press inquiries.
In response to Umberg’s letter, Assemblymember David Alvarez of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee approved the audit request on September 9. In his response, obtained by Irvine Weekly, Alvarez wrote that the audit would provide transparency and a deeper look into the green power agency’s financial inner workings.
“In accordance with Rule 17 of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, I am asking your office to move
forward with the attached emergency audit request regarding the Orange County Power Authority. This
audit will provide transparency to the authority’s finances, projections, and hiring practices. I ask and
trust that you will prioritize it appropriately,” the response read.
On Thursday, Sept. 22, a representative from Senator Umberg’s office was able to confirm that OCPA had not yet responded to Umberg’s letter.
The Orange County Power Authority will host its next meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 14.
This is a developing story.
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