Legislators Slam California Public Utilities Commission For Undermining Attorney's General Investigation - NBC Bay Area

Legislators Slam California Public Utilities Commission For Undermining Attorney's General Investigation

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    The California Public Utilities Commission has secretly used millions in tax dollars to thwart a now stalled corruption probe into the agency, three public officials wrote in a strongly-worded letter sent Friday to the state’s Attorney General. Jaxon Van Derbeken reports.

    (Published Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017)

    The California Public Utilities Commission has secretly used millions in tax dollars to thwart a now stalled corruption probe into the agency, three public officials wrote in a strongly-worded letter sent Friday to the state’s Attorney General.

    “We now know that the CPUC has been blocking your efforts at every turn,” Sen. Jerry Hill, Assemblyman Kevin Mullin and San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane wrote to Xavier Becerra.

    “CPUC’s lawyers have impeded your progress, refused to turn over documents, and filed motions to quash your search warrants,” their letter continued.

    At issue is the state’s 2014 probe into apparent back-door communications between top commission and utilities officials, specifically Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric.

    The corruption probe began with searches of the commission’s headquarters and the Southern California home of former commission president Michael Peevey.

    The searches yielded evidence that Peevey was involved in brokering a secret deal that would make Edison’s customers pay for the bulk of costs of shuttering the San Onofre nuclear plant.

    Superior Court Judge William Ryan ultimately upheld the legality of the search warrant, concluding: “There were sufficient facts alleged in the affidavit that would lead to a strong suspicion of guilt” that Peevey and Edison “conspired to obstruct justice, or the due administration of the laws.”

    In their letter, Hill, Mullin and Ruane go even further, accusing CPUC of having “misrepresented its need for outside legal services” costing as much as $12 million on the grounds it was needed to “comply with all applicable legal obligations.”

    “The CPUC has clearly made little effort to comply with your subpoenas and search warrants; instead using the monies we approved to obstruct your efforts,” according to the letter.

    The commission “is again facing a loss of trust and a question of credibility,” the letter concludes. “The fact that the CPUC refuses to comply with active investigations into illegal behavior makes one wonder what else it has to hide.”

    The commission defended its conduct on Friday, saying it has fully cooperated with the Attorney General’s office “through every step of the investigation” and turned over some one million documents so far.

    The agency “appropriately asked questions” about the probe “to ensure that relevant and appropriate information” was obtained and that “time and money was not being spent gathering non-relevant documents,” officials said.

    The commission stressed its efforts helped fix a “faulty” search warrant and led to a “significantly narrowing” of documents that ended up being turned over, saving $200,000 in costs.

    “The CPUC has not hindered the process and the Attorney General is not waiting for information from the CPUC,” the agency stressed, pointing out that prosecutors told the court as of December 2016 that the agency had turned over the sought-after documents.

    “The case is in the hands of the Attorney General’s office, and the next steps are up to the office.”

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