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OCPA’s General Counsel Resigns

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Orange County Power Authority (OCPA) general counsel Ryan Baron resigned this week — just ahead of a board meeting called to consider terminating him and his firm, Best Best & Krieger (BBK), as the agency’s legal advisors.
 
The removal of Baron and OCPA CEO Brian Probolsky had been demanded by new OCPA board member and Irvine City Councilmember Kathleen Treseder as the price for keeping Irvine in the four-city agency. Irvine is the largest member of OCPA, with some 110,000 ratepayers.
 
Last year’s Orange County Grand Jury report and an audit by the County of Orange have both cited a litany of problems with OCPA. These include lack of energy industry experience among senior managers. In fact, Probolsky himself has a history as a political operative with no energy experience. The reports also have pointed out a lack of transparency and stifling of public input that have destroyed public trust in the agency.
 
Baron was involved in the formation of the OCPA and was instrumental in the hiring of Probolsky. He has been criticized by present and former board members for acting more as the CEO’s personal attorney than the board’s legal counsel. For example, Baron advised the board that they could ignore the OCPA bylaws and have Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner, a Probolsky ally, included as a voting board member — even though the County was not yet drawing electrical power from the agency. (Orange County has subsequently withdrawn from the agency.)
 
In June, then-board member Huntington Beach Councilmember Dan Kalmick, backed by a board majority, requested a special meeting to consider terminating Probolsky. Baron, who also serves as the board’s secretary, refused to schedule the meeting.
 
Treseder said that the February 10th special OCPA board meeting will look at naming an interim counsel, including whether to continue with BBK. Treseder said that her preference was to “start fresh, and that includes hiring a new general counsel that is not BBK.”
Roger Bloom

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