SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The former chief administrative law judge at California’s powerful utility regulator said Tuesday she was fired for cooperating with investigators looking into collusion between regulators and executives from Pacific Gas & Electric.
Karen Valentia Clopton announced that she’s filing a whistleblower compliant over her dismissal in August from her senior position at the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates privately held natural gas, electric, water and other utilities.
Clopton’s allegations stem from the commission’s actions following a deadly gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno in 2010.
A federal investigation into the disaster cited lax oversight by the utilities commission. The utility involved, Pacific Gas & Electric, later released emails showing commissioners seeking donations from the utility’s executives and helping executives behind the scenes select favored commission judges to decide cases involving the utility.
Clopton alleges her dismissal was retaliation for cooperating with investigators looking into the commission’s actions and for telling her subordinates to do the same. She says she objected to the appointment of an administrative law judge with alleged ties to PG&E and told commissioners not to interfere with the assignment of specific judges to cases.
Clopton’s allegations were outlined in a complaint to the State Personnel Board, the Sacramento-based agency that oversees the state’s civil service employment and adjudicates complaints.
She says the commission hired an outside investigator in June 2016, accusing her of bullying, intimidating and retaliatory behavior toward her staff, gave her a poor review in February and notified her in June that she’d be fired.
“The allegations against Ms. Clopton were without any factual basis and represent merely the efforts of a few disgruntled employees whose performance Ms. Clopton was required to criticize and correct,” her attorney, Dan Siegel, wrote in the complaint.
Commission spokeswoman Terrie Prosper said Clopton’s allegations are “completely baseless.”
“The CPUC dismissed Karen Clopton for cause, and will vigorously defend its decision as necessary,” Prosper said.