Did OCPA’s Probolsky “Make Out Like a Bandit,” once again?

Last week, keeping a promise most of them had made, the majority of the OC Power Authority Board finally FIRED controversial CEO Brian Probolsky (“without cause.”) NOT voting to fire the putz were:

  1. HB’s Casey McKeon, who had a long-scheduled conference in conflict with the meeting;
  2. OC Supervisor Don Wagner who not only has no problem with kleptocratic behavior and incompetence, but weirdly still has a vote on the Board while representing a body that has already voted to leave the Agency;
  3. and OCPA Chairman / Fullerton Mayor Fred Jung, who abstained.

Wait, why did Fred, who’d told this author he supported firing The Probe, abstain? Well, Fred tells me that he really wanted all six members of the Board to be there for such an important vote, and was willing to schedule a special meeting so that Casey could be there, but he couldn’t hold back Trini, Tammy and Treseder from rushing to keep their promise to voters. And he certainly WOULD’VE voted to fire The Probe.

On the one hand, it’s hard to exaggerate Probolsky’s lack of qualifications for the position, his incompetence, his love of secrecy and backroom dealings, and the numerous ways he’s f–d up the fledgling community-choice agency’s first couple years…

But on the other hand, Brian has become like The Batman, or The Christ, insofar as he has taken upon himself the sins of many. Without his invaluable legal partner-in-crime Ryan Baron (the recently resigned OCPA Attorney), without valueless Irvine politicians Farrah Khan & Mike Carroll, who in turn were loyal puppets of supremely transactional and now prison-bound super-meddler Melahat Rafiei … there would’ve BEEN no CEO Probolsky, and the fledgling community-choice agency would be in a much better place right now and not fighting for its life.


“Fired WITHOUT Cause?”

How does that even make sense, when there are MULTIPLE AUDITS BRIMMING WITH “CAUSE” to fire CEO Probolsky? This sounds like a way for Probolsky to make out like a bandit AGAIN with a huge punitive payout, and sounds like this new “reformist” board is just as in the tank and corrupt as their predecessors. WELL…

The FIRST part’s true, Brian WILL probably make out like a bandit again as he generally does, we’ll know the exact damage to Irvine taxpayers some time in the next week or two. On the other hand, the current Board really DID want to fire him “for cause,” but, as multiple attorneys warned them, Brian’s great contract, PENNED BY HIS CRONY RYAN BARON, makes that nearly impossible – they would have to prove “MALICIOUS INTENT,” much more difficult to prove than mere incompetence or even shameless greed and logrolling.

And voila, here is the contract for your perusal, thanks to Jose “Trini” Castaneda for sending it over. [The contract is pages 9-14 of this PDF.] Trini confirms it was written by Ryan Baron; Tammy Kim on the other hand is sure that it’s the handiwork of attorney and Irvine Councilman Mike Carroll, a former Board member and intimate of Melahat and Farrah. (Well in that case, Curse you Mike Carroll!) Trini admits that Carroll may have had a hand in it and coulda changed it if he wanted. And the reasons Brian could be fired “for cause” are listed on page 3 of his contract, page 11 of the PDF, and those are:

“bribery, theft, embezzlement, conviction of any criminal act involving fraud, malfeasance, or an act of misfeasance, unlawful discrimination, commission of a felony, material dishonesty related to Employee’s duties or the Authority, material violation of the Authority’s personnel policies or procedures as discussed in Section 5 herein, or other gross misconduct in the performance of his job…”

… any of which woulda justified Brian being fired with no severance, but none of which the Board felt they could prove or credibly claim. And if Brian sued and prevailed it woulda cost Irvine a lot more – he could have even won his job back God forbid. So fired without cause he is, and we’ll see soon how much THAT costs the City of Beige.

But Why All the Gushing?

Observers were taken aback by not only the no-cause termination but the very kind words spoken by the three terminators, as quoted by the Voice of OC – were they still afraid of Probolsky’s Revenge? (BTW he does have to drop his ridiculous “whistleblower” suit if he wants any payout.) Okay, Dr. Treseder’s “I really appreciate Mr. Probolsky’s efforts at creating this agency” was professional and courteous, but Tammy and Trini?

“You’ve held composure and grace under pressure. I just applaud all your work and all your efforts. Kudos to you.” 

Tammy Kim

“It is telling that despite the challenges and the uphill battles we’ve all shared together, you’ve provided so much leadership in bringing a team that will bring about this vision of transforming Orange County. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the work you’ve done.”

Jose Trinidad Castaneda

Jose and Tammy see Probolsky as actually having “done his best,” and being at worst a hapless tool for more clever and acquisitive actors. In this view, his lack of qualifications and ability was actually a PLUS in the view of those who hired him. (Thanks, Melahat, Farrah & Carroll!) STILL, the guy did make out like a bandit these two years.

Next Steps for the OCPA

What are the next most important steps for this fledgling community choice agency? I asked three Board members and they responded…

Fred Jung: A thorough and diligent search for the best qualified CEO.

Jose Trini C: That and equally important a new permanent General Counsel that they can trust, AND to complete the plan – and FOLLOW that plan – to address all the criticisms in the audits, especially the state audit.

Tammy Kim: All that AND getting more cities to join the agency.

Well THAT’LL probably take some time! Not only rebuilding trust but stanching the bleeding – aren’t Fullerton and Buena Park discussing leaving?

Yeah, About That…

Bryan Ferry, on the first Roxy Music album, sang “In Every Dream Home, a Heartache.” If he were singing this year about member cities of the OCPA, he would change it to “In Every City Council, a Cranky Implacable Naysayer.” And those naysayers are all Democrats too, folks you’d think would be sympathetic to at least the goals here. Irvine has its Larry Agran, bitterly hostile to anything he didn’t dream up and doesn’t control – but he does not enjoy a majority this decade.

In Buena Park and Fullerton it’s more personal – the superannuated Art Brown gunning for the agency because of his grudge against Trini, and the shady, spiteful Ahmad Zahra doing the same just because he can’t stand Fred. Neither board member is particularly worried about their opposition succeeding, especially after the latest move.

Zahra particularly is beginning to remind everyone of the disgraced Jordan Brandman, a fellow client of Danny Fierro. Recently I got an anonymous and totally irrelevant e-mail about the personal lives of a couple of the board members – “Look! Tammy comes to Fullerton Council meetings and stays late!” When Tammy saw the e-mail she said “ah, that’s gotta be from Ahmad Zahra – he hates me and Fred and the OCPA.” Whoever it was, the sender, who wouldn’t identify themselves, was making a pathetic attempt to discredit the agency, which fell flat.

What else do I have for you? Fred is funny. And he never did tell me that he was speaking off the record. You know how Trini and Treseder were at each other’s throats for a while there? Well, Chairman Fred read them the Riot Act – “We can’t be looking like a Travelling Circus here!” – sounding like a stern father, or a Board Chairman at his wit’s end. Trini admits now that “this whole Probolsky situation had us all uptight,” and he says he’s getting along really good now with his fellow community choice enthusiast.

Also Trini, who loves the agency as though it were part of his anatomy, wants ALL OF YOU to know that “THERE IS NO CORRUPTION at the OCPA! Well … there was ONE major contract for marketing services that verged on ‘corrupt’ but other than that there’s NO CORRUPTION!”

Huh. Corruption is in the eye of the beholder, but I’d say that Melahat telling Treseder that Probolsky needed to stay CEO in return for Probolsky getting Farrah onto the Coastal Commission sounds corrupt to me. Ah well, potato, poTAHto, best of luck to this fledgling community choice agency at making a second start!

Vern out.

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official political troubadour of Anaheim and most other OC towns. Regularly makes solo performances, sometimes with his savage-jazz band The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.