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Attorneys Suggest Evidence Isn't Safe at CPUC Amid Federal Investigation

In an internal CPUC memo leaked to the Investigative Unit, attorneys worry that staff may be destroying evidence in the wake of an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office

In a memo sent to commissioners and high-ranking officials at the California Public Utilities Commission Wednesday, staff attorneys aired concerns about the commission’s response to an investigation by the United States Department of Justice and a media report of an investigation by the state attorney general regarding the San Bruno pipeline explosion case.

Thirteen attorneys wrote and signed the memo, which describes their concerns that the commission has “not taken appropriate steps in the past months to preserve evidence.” In the letter, the attorneys also state that they believe some divisions within the commission have planned to “clean out” their offices in preparation for a move to another building and that “records may be destroyed in the process.”

The email was leaked to the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit on Wednesday, less than a week after CPUC president Michael Peevey decided not to seek another term after 12 years as the leader of the commission.

Peevey has faced mounting criticism from lawmakers, ire from the public and tough questions from the Investigative Unit after internal emails exposed that he had improper and unethical dealings with Pacific Gas & Electric Co. while the commission was deciding the penalty for the deadly pipeline explosion in San Bruno.

This week’s memo exposes growing internal tension and conflict as the U.S. Attorney's Office investigates cozy and back channel communications between CPUC commissioners and PG&E in the wake of the deadly San Bruno explosion four years ago.

The attorneys question why—according to a news report—the state attorney general launched an investigation nearly a month ago and executive director Paul Clanon never notified the agency’s legal staff about the investigation and a need to preserve evidence.

“We are stunned,” said San Bruno city manager Connie Jackson.

Jackson said that Clanon “either doesn’t understand or is unwilling to do what he is supposed to be doing.”

In the memo the lawyers write, “We believe that it is important for the commission, its officers and its staff to cooperate fully with these investigations so that wrongdoing, if any can be identified and fully prosecuted.”

In response to questions from the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit, Clanon said he could not discuss the memo but denied destroying any evidence.

“There is absolutely no truth to any of the concerns that the Public Utilities Commission would destroy any evidence,” he said. “That’s ridiculous and of course we would not do anything like that.”

The attorney general’s press secretary would not comment on the existence of an investigation but said in a statement that the attorney general “takes matters of public concern very seriously.”

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