The final deal saddled ratepayers with a $3.3 billion bill. That settlement is now under fire because of questions over whether it was influenced by a secret Warsaw meeting, which under state law should have been disclosed at the time by the utility company.
Beginning in 2014, former chief administrative law judge Karen V. Clopton worked with state and federal investigators to determine whether any laws were broken by the communications between PG&E and members of the commission. She instructed all of the judges on her staff to cooperate with these investigations.
Clopton also removed now-former CPUC Commissioner Michael Florio from the San Onofre proceeding after emails from the San Bruno investigation showed his ties to utility executives.
Now, Clopton has filed a complaint against the agency alleging unlawful termination and systematic racial discrimination against black judges. She claims that she was fired in retaliation for speaking out against the commission's "unethical conduct" and communications with PG&E.
“All of us, as officers of the court, both lawyers and judges, as public servants, we owe the American public an educated, unbiased and independent judiciary," she said at a press conference in front of the CPUC building Tuesday.
Clopton became the first black chief administrative law judge at the agency in 2009. In her role she managed a staff of more than 100 people, including 40 judges. She also oversaw several prominent cases. In addition to weighing in on the PG&E and San Onofre scandals, she oversaw the case in which commissioners fined Uber $7.3 million for refusing to give regulators information on the company's business practices. She was removed from her position in August.
As part of her complaint Clopton also alleges that there is systemic racial discrimination at the agency.
In her former role, Clopton recommended that CPUC Executive Director Timothy Sullivan not appoint Michael Colvin as an administrative law judge based on his relationship with PG&E employees. The complaint alleges that emails show that Colvin wrote to PG&E staff about issues pending before the commission and disparaged black administrative judges.
The complaint also alleges that the agency's mandated training program for all supervisors and managers included "archaic debunked racist theories of white supremacy." Clopton says she fought against racial bias at the agency by conducting implicit bias trainings for judges and discussing her concerns about racial discrimination.
“That’s why I’m in trouble, you know. Because I talk back, I speak out, I stand up. And I’m going to continue to do it," she said.
Agency staff raised concerns about gender discrimination with KQED two years ago.
The CPUC wrote in a statement that they "dismissed Karen Clopton for cause, and will vigorously defend its decision as necessary. The CPUC’s adverse employment action clearly stated the reasons for her dismissal and the allegations put forward today are completely baseless. We will provide no further comment on this personnel action."
Read the Complaint