Disgraced PUC boss Michael Peevey to be honored by cronies

People who were wondering if they would no longer have Michael Peevey to kick around might, in fact, have another opportunity to direct a fresh round of criticism and skepticism at the disgraced former boss of the state Public Utilities Commission.

Peevey, who stepped down at the end of 2014 as the president of the PUC and one of its five commissioners, is the guest of honor at a $250-a-plate fundraiser at the posh Julia Morgan Ballroom in San Francisco that’s designed to raise money for the University of California.

Peevey is one of the key figures in a widening scandal that has erupted in the wake of a fatal explosion of natural gas in San Bruno caused by PG&E. The aftermath of the blast has engulfed the utility and the PUC and raised doubts about the safety of PG&E’s gas system and the ability of the PUC to oversee the utility giant.

The Peevey dinner is scheduled for Thursday night, and protestors are expected to show up to raise questions about the propriety of honoring a former state official who is accused of creating a culture of lax oversight of PG&E and now, it appears, other utilities such as Southern California Edison. Peevey, after all, is the state regulator who wined and dined a former PG&E regulatory executive, Brian Cherry, at the Peevey beach home in the tony Sea Ranch community along the Sonoma coast. In May 2010, Peevey and Cherry washed down their dinner with bottles of Pinot Noir. Cherry and Peevey finished a New Year’s Eve 2012 dinner with a dram or two of Johnny Walker Blue Label.

Peevey also engaged in numerous meetings and conversations, both in person and by email, with PG&E executives in a series of encounters that appear to be inappropriate. Now, state and federal investigators are trying to determine if the Peevey meetings were also illegal or corrupt.

“It’s hard for me to understand why you would have a celebration to honor someone who had to leave the PUC in disgrace,” said state Sen. Jerry Hill, a frequent critic of Peevey, the PUC and PG&E whose San Mateo County district includes San Bruno, scene of the fatal explosion in September 2010.

The invitation to the Michael Peevey dinner in the luxurious Julia Morgan Ballroom in San Francisco

The invitation to the Michael Peevey dinner in the luxurious Julia Morgan Ballroom in San Francisco

State investigators recently served search warrants at Peevey’s Los Angeles County home and the residence of Cherry, in Orinda. Some legal experts believe the search warrants suggest the state Attorney General is actively gathering evidence for a possible criminal indictment against Peevey or Cherry, or both.

“I don’t remember Richard Nixon having too many celebrations after he left office,” Hill said, referring to the late president who was forced to resign over a coverup in the Watergate scandal. “That is what is kind of shocking about the Peevey dinner. What part of  Peevey’s career at the PUC is being celebrated? You have to take his career in totality.”

The Peevey event, according to copy of an invitation we obtained, is being held to honor Peevey for a “lifetime of service to the people of California.”

A reception is scheduled for 6 p.m. and dinner begins at 7 p.m. at the Merchant Exchange Building at 465 California St. in San Francisco. Former state Assembly Speaker Willie Brown is the master of ceremonies. The proceeds for the dinner will raise money for UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy. Former Bill Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich is one of the famed academics at the school. Among the advisors: Peevey, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Nancy McFadden — executive secretary to Gov. Jerry Brown. The governor publicly supported Peevey despite the scandals. Co-chairs of the event: Susan Kennedy, a former PUC commissioner and a one-time top official in the administrations of ex-governors Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger; and Don Solem, top boss of a powerhouse public relations firm that bears his name.

Word of the Peevey celebration incensed officials in San Bruno, where the fatal explosion killed eight and wrecked a quiet residential neighborhood.

“San Bruno is not buying a table at this fundraiser,” San Bruno City Manager Connie Jackson said. “We remain troubled by what has been revealed by Peevey’s leadership of the PUC. A continuous pattern of lax oversight, negligence, cozy relationships with PG&E and outright corruption.”


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