The Imperial Irrigation District late Monday released to the Desert Review memorandums outlining a scathing case against five senior members of the IID Energy Department ousted last fall in a controversial reorganization. The information was sent by e-mail.
Allegations as summarized by IID General Counsel Ross G. Simmons allege some work by those electric-power transmission planners and managers was “garbage” and “placed the IID’s transmission system—and the safety of its employees in the field—at risk and resulted in major expenditures on unnecessary projects.”
IID announced in an Oct. 16 press release it had placed “several” employees in its transmission, planning and engineering sections on paid administrative leave. General Manager Kevin Kelley later said in an interview the action involved employees that he alleged were bungling major transmission projects. IID has otherwise declined to discuss details of the action, or name the employees, stating it is a confidential personnel matter.
The memos released Monday state the personnel matter is pending but does not provide specifics. The district did not immediately respond to an e-mail late Monday asking if the staffers are still on paid leave. Sources who spoke recently on the condition of anonymity said four remain on paid leave and a fifth applied for retirement and obtained employment elsewhere.
The employees have not issued comments.
IID Energy is responsible for the generation and importation of electric power to serve the district’s 150,000 customers in Imperial, Riverside and San Diego counties. It is also oversees the transmission of that power over electric lines within, and into and out of, its service area.
The memorandum containing the allegations is dated April 12 and states it was sent from Simmons to the IID Board of Directors. It states the topic is “Investigative Report Summary IID Energy Department in re: Transmission Planning Unit.” It states the document is “not intended to be confidential.”
That unit is the part of IID Energy responsible for planning how electric power is moved on its power lines, as well as planning for changes, often expansion, that will need to be made.
Also released was a memorandum dated Monday from Simmons to “Members, Energy Consumers Advisory Committee (ECAC)” and states the subject as “Transmission Planning Unit Investigation.”
The ECAC is a 20-member advisory committee. Each of the five IID directors appoint two members. Areas of Coachella Valley in Riverside County that get electric power from IID but are outside the districts of its elected directors nominate the 10 additional members that are then formally approved by the IID directors.
Deadline restrictions prevented the Desert Review from seeking immediate comment from the IID directors or ECAC members. The e-mail to the Desert Review stated, however, “IID will not be distributing this report widely nor are we issuing any further statements at this time.”
In the memo to the ECAC Simmons explains why he is sending the ECAC the April 12 memorandum previously shared with the IID board about the allegations against the staffers.
“I was before you [the ECAC] at your January 4 meeting speaking to the placement of personnel within the Imperial Irrigation District’s Transmission Planning Unit on administrative leave,” Simmons states.
“Dissatisfied with information available from former management surrounding the issues, I have since commissioned a third-party investigation to confirm the propriety of the general manager’s action…That investigation is complete…” Simmons adds.
Simmons’ April 12 memorandum states the staffers were placed on leave based on his and Kelley’s “view that IID’s Transmission Planning Unit’s dysfunction was pervasive and exigent, and the Energy Department management had not taken corrective action.”
The October shake up also involved the hiring of Vicken Kasarjian as co-Energy-Department manager with Carl Stills, who had been sole manager. But by Dec. 30, Kasarjian was sole Energy manager and Stills reassigned to a project management position, an internal memo released by Kelley at the time states.
Sources said the positions the five staffers held were deputy energy manager responsible for engineering and operations, a planning and engineering manager, a general superintendent of planning, a supervisor of planning and an assistant manager of energy transmission expansion. IID has not confirmed the positions.
Their work, Kelley said, is now being performed by six employees of the privately owned energy consulting firm ZGlobal, Inc., under a three-year $9 million contract recommended by Kelley and approved by the board on Oct. 20. Kasarjian, who has a lengthy career in the energy industry, spent time as a consultant for ZGlobal in the year prior to being hired by IID, Kelley confirmed.
The personnel moves have been criticized by observers who conceded the IID Energy Department had had some difficulties but maintained the disciplined employees were making steady improvements. They added the moves could jeopardize the reliability and affordability of electricity supplied by IID.
Kelley, in a previous interview, countered by stating it was the actions of the staffers placed on leave that threatened those core functions.
Simmons’ April 12 memo to the board finally sheds light on the district’s reasoning for essentially tearing its Energy management team out by the roots and starting anew. It lists eight “issues” identified by the investigation “that validate the general manager’s personnel action…” They include inadequate training and planning, eight “Questionable IID transmission system improvement projects either completed or in progress,” failure to comply with IID procedures and delays in completing studies related to electric-power transmission.
Simmons states the investigation was performed by Baker Street Group and Al Fayez Ecommerce LLC. It adds that while their investigation is “ongoing…they have now reported back on eight crucial issues.”
In Issue #2 titled “Flawed engineering models and transmission planning assessment studies,” Simmons states, “The use of faulty data has resulted in faulty studies…In other words, IID’s Transmission Planning Unit used ‘garbage in’ models that resulted in ‘garbage out.’”
Simmons concludes, “The pending personnel matter arising from IID’s Transmission Planning Unit has now been investigated, the report is complete, and that process is proceeding. Nevertheless, there are various safety and accounting issues that remain, which the general counsel’s office is still investigating.”
He adds he and Kelley had to step in “to secure and stabilize IID’s transmission Planning Unit, unaided by Energy Department management…This is most assuredly not as it should be.”
Simmons also states “Those disciplined were not those being supervised, but are those who were charged with, and abdicated, supervision. They were not those who were trained incorrectly, but those who taught others incorrectly…”