We are fast approaching the end of 2016. It is natural for each of us to reflect on 2016 high points. For me, 2016 has been a year of accomplishment. I managed to do some long overdue fishing, travel abroad and chase a golf ball a couple times a week. In my spare time I visited the battleground states for the Tea Party as part of the silent majority, helped as director of an organization for special needs adults, and tried to stay up to date with the happenings at IID.
So what is it that was actually accomplished by IID in 2016? Has anything good come from this duck disguised as change? Here’s what we know.
On January 11, 2016 Gary Redfern’s article, “Changes at IID controversial, GM staunch in defense,” read, … sources who spoke on the condition they not be identified, complained that Kasarjian is still too closely tied to ZGlobal to run IID Energy independently and that his hiring violates district policy by either being a conflict of interest or creating the appearance of such.”
“You have a consultant managing the Energy Department. I’ve never seen that,” said one source who has worked closely with the district on energy matters.”
“Kelley did state Kasarjian is a contract employee who does not have the same protections as regular employees, such as the five against whom action recently was taken.”
What made me nervous about Kelly’s response was the statement that Kasarjian does not have the same protections as regular employees. Does that also mean he does not have to follow policy as regular employees do?
I believe the public had the same reaction as I did. In late January 2016, in response to Shorty Hickingbottom’s letter to the editor regarding the pitfalls of hiring consultants to run the IID, a commenter responded. “Has consultant recently bought any of the right of way, or solar project land?”
Believe this was a valid question, but do not know whether the board took time to follow this clue or do its due diligence. It is clear as early as January 2016 that the public knew Kasarjian was bypassing policy with the support of the GM.
In February, the IID is taking on the CAISO through another stab at a complaint. I wondered at the time how this was going to work out and how much it will cost ratepayers in Imperial Valley. Hope this legal fight and employee law suits do not send IID to the poor house!
In March, Z-Global begins cancelling projects like Path 42 and STEP. What is curious to me is that ZGlobal wrote STEP and apparently was paid for the plan. What was wrong with their analysis back then and why are they no longer in support of their recommendations. Maybe good news in April!
Before the month of March could end, the IID was under fire for the shoddy job it did with the Net Metering. Who is watching the 5% cap? Surely the former energy manager can’t be blamed as Kasarjian had been in charge for over half a year. What’s he been doing aside from getting a multi-million dollar contract in place for ZGlobal and hiring his buddy’s into jobs as his deputies?
As we enter the summer months there’s a renewed sense of hope in the fact that the board’s composition will be changing. We hope that these professionals provide the ethics and balance to a board that seems to have lost its way.
In mid- June Ross Simmons is on his way out of the IID. Did we see this coming? As many have stated, Kasarjian and Simmons were an odd pairing. I am sure it was a power struggle and that ethics and doing the right thing was mixed with hidden agendas.
While traveling, I checked in to see how things were improving at IID. I was perplexed to find a dour outlook for IID and I was concerned about the continued conflict of interest and lack of transparency. I felt compelled to sit down and wrote a note. I stated in this letter of June 27, “Three properties (Alhambra, Sonora, and Arkansas) owned by IID were assessed by IID planning for suitability for PV development. Determined suitable by the planning engineers 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.”
It’s now five months later and there are specifics available about the improper actions alluded to in January. Guess no one bothered to check into the affiliation between ZGlobal, Regenerate and Allegretti Farms! Surely the Board did not condone this transaction. My mistake, the only people talking to the Board are Kasarjian and Jesse Montano. And, when they announce during a board meeting that they are negotiating an agreement with Regenerate, it sailed right past the Board.
The battery project was a big deal for IID in 2016. It had its share of problems and I’m not talking about the affiliation between Coachella Valley Partners, ZGlobal and Kasrjian, an apparent “working both sides of the street” management/owner relationship, I’m talking about safety violations that have allegedly been covered up, too.
I do have to admit that between July and early November, my mind had turned to the national election. And, I guess everyone else was focused on the election because as soon as we had an elected President my friends in Imperial Valley started calling to discuss the ongoing problems at IID.
High on the list has been the layoff caused by high costs and low revenues, due to lack of checks and balances, as well as removal of program controls, and high consultant costs. Rather than call it a layoff that might alarm the public, employees have been offered 3 month incentives to retire early. This, of course will increase the brain/skill drain of experienced employees, but it is preferable for employees who find themselves with upward career paths blocked by consultants, unless they are fortunate to be related to, or cronies with the GM/ directors/consultant.
The outlook for 2017 is bleak. Employment opportunities are limited, meetings continue to be held with one person representing both the contractor and IID, and all the while the state legislature will be proposing legislation to address the taxation without representation issue in the Coachella Valley. We are well aware of the impact of the legislation quickly passed with regard to net metering.
I implore the Desert Review to ask an unbiased, investigative reporter like Gary Redfern to help get to the bottom of these lingering concerns for the sake of the IID and community. It is high time issues of corruption are proven, or expelled – “fox in the henhouse”, “working both sides of the street”, fraud, theft, violation of procurement/ employment laws, bribery and nepotism/cronyism to state a few of the allegations. Think Gary should request interviews of the directors, Kasarjian and the GM to explain the latest reorganization. The troublesome issue he should investigate is the statement in the last memo. Upon review of the latest memo, it appears to contradict Kasarjian’s original memo when ZGlobal was brought on board. It was denied back then that ZGlobal has any management decision making authority. So then, all along, ZGlobal has been making decisions for IID?