Whether traveling to Alaska, Oregon, India, or China with internet access it doesn’t matter where I am – I constantly read about strange events at IID. I can only ask, “What the heck is happening at IID & why; what has happened to the checks & balances, transparency and community interaction that was promised from the “new” board and general manager?
Gleaning from the newspapers, IID meetings/minutes, press releases, and historical documents, many unanswered questions arise from what has been called an unprecedented “gutting” of IID energy management and replacement with consultant staff, without any forewarning, especially since all five professional engineers put on leave are said to have only had performance reviews with successful to highly successful ratings for at least 25 years.
Immediately following removal of core management, a former associate of ZGlobal was brought in to serve as energy co-manager and a ZGlobal vice president (former IID energy operator – not an engineer) was brought in to manage the planning & engineering section. The previous energy manager was moved from his co-energy manager position to manage the PMO following the unexpected retirement of the PMO manager. Later, additional ZGlobal replacements, including two new deputy managers were hired to replace the registered professional engineers (PE’s). This use of a consultant company to manage career staff is highly unusual due to obvious affects on advancement, training, hiring; subsequently security and morale.
One of the 5 affected professional engineers departed for another district as General Manager and two other unaffected PE’s quickly departed for nearby agencies along with the Officer of Strategic Business. Another engineer with over 30 years experience, who had moved from Texas, but had not completed his probationary work period was released without explanation. Those functions are now being outsourced to ZGlobal.
Then the GM and Legal Counsel went on record to explain the organizational changes with scathing blanket accusations to this paper and by letter to the ECAC prior to mandatory Skelly Hearings for the PE’s. Yet, after eight months all remain on paid leave still pending completion of their HR due process. Obviously, this has constrained them from commenting to any charges , so questions are going unchecked except through newspaper blogs and social media.
Gleaning further, ZGlobal has assisted IID planning engineering staff to plan, formulate, justify and estimate transmission projects for several years. They also assisted with special transmission studies and feedback to CAISO, where 5 of the 6 officers at ZGlobal, as shown on their internet company bios., worked previously. During that same period of time it appears that ZGlobal also represented and performed engineering for independent power producers (IPP’s ) located in Imperial County. This has led to comment that ZGlobal is “working both sides of the street” – working for IID and at the same time representing IPP’s located in the county. According to the paper ZGlobal was paid $10.9M for 19 projects that were sole sourced to them bypassing normal IID required procurement practices. In reviewing available information, no progress, or final deliverable reports, or audits appear to have been produced that evaluated ZGlogal performance. Also, there appears to be no substantive deliverables for the ZGlobal contract other than a general mention of a transmission plan that was due in March. There is no indication that this deadline was met.
Digging further, the chief internal auditor in 2015 asked ZGlobal to perform an audit of the interconnection process even though ZGlobal was the engineer of record for numerous generator applicants (i.e. the “fox in the henhouse”). This action has led to criticism of IID’s chief internal auditor, who is not certified, and assertion that the GM and General Counsel should not have condoned this – the concern being that ZGlobal was in a position to benefit the generators they worked for and ZGlobal themselves (both from an engineering work standpoint and potentially generator owned standpoint).
Three properties (Alhambra, Sonora, and Arkansas) owned by IID were assessed by IID planning for suitability for PV development. Determined suitable by the planning engieers in 2009, the sites were sold by IID to developers at half the going land value in the area. The developer used ZGlobal for project management and engineering. This led to insinuation of preferential treatment & the use of insider information for benefit.
Further, the Seville Farm Complex PV proposed in 2014 was planned to be located on portions of the 2,440 Allegretti Farms property near Anza. This was proposed by Regenerate Power LLC. to consist of the construction, operation, and reclamation of up to five solar energy projects, including a new access road for SR 78, internal access roads, an IID electrical switch station and electrical substations for each of the projects. The project proponent (Regenerate) is funded by the IBEW retirement funds. Project management was provided by ZGlobal.
Additionally, the Coachella Energy Storage Partners have partnered to construct a $40 million battery storage project at the El Centro Generating Station. ZGlobal is partnered with a previous board member. Now that ZGloobal and their associates control the energy department decisions there is concern that this is again analogous to the “fox in the henhouse” thereby compromising the project.
To compound this problem of conflict and visibility, the board recently revised the internal reporting structure so that project management no longer provides project expenditures to the directors. This means that the board no longer has direct purview of the expenditures that should be paid for by the IPP’s leading to conjecture that these costs could be passed onto ratepayers without the board’s knowledge since ZGlobal represents both the IPP’s and IID, creating another checks & balances issue.
This apparent special treatment of one company which has received almost $20 million in non-competitive, sole source work without accountability requirements, has generated numerous, unnecessary innuendos and increases to do so. This behavior has also led to related questions. For example, “What are employee advancement opportunities with consultants filling management positions?” Will IID train employees for advancement, or do they simply leave for other companies with this experience?” “What can the public expect ?” “Will IID energy rates escalate as a result of their transmission system coming under the CAISO umbrella, or will IID remain a strong, independent utility with low rates?” Or, will IID be relegated to an energy distributor; or are they being groomed to be sold, which has been the goal of a few for a long time?”
Because of the many rumors and so much uncertainty, I believe the IID directors need to immediately fulfill their promises of accountability, transparency and visibility with a public that deserves to know the truth. Unfounded rumors and insinuations can only harm employee morale and erode public trust in a great company that has stood the test of time and been an economic cornerstone of the community providing well-paying jobs for Imperial Valley employees which then stimulates the local economy and in turn supports other local businesses and companies.