More CPUC uproar; staff attorneys criticize director over emails

California Attorney General ordered the CPUC so safeguard evidence for the investigation on “judge-shopping”. However, that message didn’t get to the attorneys that work for the CPUC. These attorneys have had disagreements and run-ins with executive staff in the past. For instance,

CPUC attorneys are also worried that “clean-out” days planned at the CPUC may just clean out critical evidence.

Excerpts from the San Francisco Chronicle:

Lawyers with the state commission that regulates Pacific Gas and Electric Co. say the agency’s bosses didn’t pass along an order from state Attorney General Kamala Harris’ office to safeguard evidence as prosecutors investigate a judge-shopping case involving the utility and top public officials.

In a memo addressed to the five members of the Public Utilities Commission, obtained by The Chronicle, 13 attorneys with the agency said the first they heard of the order was when they read about it on a newspaper’s website.

Harris’ office told the commission on Sept. 19 to preserve any e-mails or other evidence related to back-channel communications between PG&E and regulatory officials. The lawyers said they learned of the order “by chance” when the Sacramento Bee reported on it last week.

The attorneys called on the commissioners to compel the agency’s executive director, Paul Clanon, to cooperate with investigations by state and federal prosecutors into whether the communications between PG&E and the state agency broke any laws.

Those communications show that a PG&E vice president secretly and successfully lobbied two commissioners and their staffs to have a preferred judge assigned to a rate-setting case arising out of the San Bruno pipeline explosion.

PG&E released the e-mails last month and fired the vice president and two other executives implicated in the affair. The utilities commission has picked a new judge for the rate case, and commission President Michael Peevey’s chief of staff, Carol Brown, was reassigned.

“We are concerned that, if the newspaper report is accurate, to our knowledge, the commission has not taken appropriate steps in the past months to preserve evidence, such as notifying all relevant commission officers and staff of their obligations,” the lawyers wrote to the five commissioners in a memo dated Wednesday.

…The lawyers asked the commission to compel Clanon to issue an order to preserve evidence and assure staffers that they will not face retaliation if they cooperate with the state and federal probes.

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Article by Jaxon Van Derbeken. He is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: jvanderbeken at

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