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Sonoma Clean Power to hire CEO



Sonoma County’s startup public power agency is set to gain a chief executive Tuesday, a significant step geared toward the launch of powerplantSonoma Clean Power as an independent entity.

The chief executive officer is expected to play a central role in the political, financial and operational development of a program that has been heavily scrutinized of late as local cities weigh whether to participate.

The appointment comes more than two years after the county first studied entering the electricity supply business. The approved venture is set to begin serving homes and businesses Jan. 1.

Supporters say the hiring adds leadership during a crucial period, as negotiations on power contracts, marketing moves and other efforts kick off.

“To me, it’s another milestone in getting us to that point where we launch,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo

The CEO selection, by the power agency’s board of directors — composed now of four county supervisors and a town of Windsor representative — is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon following interviews with three final candidates.

The appointment is set to be on an interim basis, allowing a larger board including other cities that may join the chance to revisit the selection.

One of the applicants is widely said to be Geof Syphers, the lead consultant to the county Water Agency, which has spearheaded the power proposal.

A former sustainability expert for Codding Enterprises, the Rohnert Park developer, Syphers has worked on the effort from its earliest stages under a $124,000 contract approved in mid-2012. He declined to comment Monday on his reported interest in the CEO post.

The other two candidates are applicants from outside the county, according to sources involved in the appointment. They did not share the candidates’ names.

County officials likewise would not identify the final candidates, citing a standard confidentiality policy covering the hiring process.

The final trio emerged from a pool of 14 candidates referred to the county by an executive search firm, a Boston-based division of Robert Half International, which was paid $25,000 for the recruitment.

The selection, initially set for June 21, was put off by supervisors to allow Windsor to have a formal say on the appointment. The city’s representative, Vice Mayor Bruce Okrepkie, was seated on the agency board last week.

The postponement was also meant to give four other cities still weighing the program the chance to have an advisory role in the selection.

Mayors from Santa Rosa and Sebastopol had their opportunity in interviews with the candidates Monday. Mayors from Sonoma and Cotati, which has since decided to participate, will have their chance Tuesday.

The mayors’ input is being conveyed to the agency board through Grant Davis, the Water Agency’s general manager.

Santa Rosa Mayor Scott Bartley on Monday called the process “awkward,” saying he lacked specific direction from his council heading into the meetings and thus couldn’t offer input that would serve as the city’s endorsement.

“I did everything I would do if I was on an interviewing panel,” Bartley said. “I just wasn’t speaking as a representative of the city.”

The Santa Rosa City Council has scheduled its vote on the program for July 9. Sebastopol is set to decide Tuesday. Because Sonoma’s July 15 deciding vote is after the July 9 deadline, based on its preliminary June 17 affirmative vote, county officials are including the city in the program in their initial final bid documents for electricity suppliers.

The program is meant to offer a competitive alternative to PG&E and rely more heavily on renewable energy sources that could shrink the county’s carbon footprint.

It has faced strong skepticism from critics questioning its purpose and viability and from government watchdogs concerned about financial risk to taxpayers.

Supporters say the agency’s chief executive will have to be adept at addressing those concerns and handling key duties, from the negotiation of the agency’s all-important power supply contracts to administration of financing, marketing and accounting deals already approved or in the works.

The appointee will need “political sense, strategic sense and business sense,” said Ann Hancock, executive director of the Climate Protection Campaign, a key power agency supporter. “They basically have to, as close as they can, walk on water.”

A salary range for the position has not been determined. An initial contract with the chosen chief executive could be brought forward at the power agency’s next public meeting, tentatively set for July 30.

You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or brett.wilkison@pressdemocrat.com.

7 Responses to “Sonoma Clean Power to hire CEO”

  1. Elephant says:

    GAJ wrote – “12 to 15 employees so a cost well over a million bucks for this White Elephant in payroll/benefit costs alone”

    And that’s each and every year for eternity! White elephant is a good description. So is boondoggle. So is money canyon (much bigger than a money pit).

    Stop this crazy thing!!!

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  2. GAJ says:

    12 to 15 employees so a cost well over a million bucks for this White Elephant in payroll/benefit costs alone.

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  3. Fed Up Taxpayer says:

    I wonder how much of our Green power is going to cost us with a CEO with full beanies and do not forget the rest of his staff. This is just another gov agency that will siphon any profits out and leave us with more debt to our children.

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  4. Steveguy says:

    Mr. Dean, the Santa Rosa consultant negotiated 100% GREEN power for Healdsburg at 20% LESS cost.

    They won’t hire him, as the payoffs and the greed have to be fed to the ‘planners’.

    PG&E has far ‘greener’ power that Sonoma Greed Power ever wishes for !

    I wish that I could opt for the Healdsburg option, after all no matter the double-speak 100% of every electron purchased by me and you comes from the Geyser’s Complex anyway. That is a FACT that is ignored.

    I would take PG&E over Con-Edison any day !

    Pie in the sky reaps MILLIONS for the corrupt and connected.

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  5. Joe says:

    HaHa I new there was more to it! Another high paying job, let me guess 200k per year or more with bennies, this is becoming more of a joke everyday. I’m opting out of this cluster.

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  6. andrew simpson says:

    The primary requirement for the Sonoma Clean Power CEO from the perspective of the Board of Supervisors, Water Agency, County Counsel—and of the puppeteers who pull their strings—is that the new CEO be acquiescent in the real mission of Sonoma Clean Power . That real mission is to serve as front man for the cash recycling operation which is Sonoma Clean Power’s reason for existence.

    Conversely, the public’s primary requirements for Sonoma Clean Power CEO impeccable integrity, guts, leadership ability and demonstrated operational skill when it comes to running a start up local power company.

    It is virtually certain that ANY candidate offered up by the County will be an acquiescent front man for an unethical and, inevitably, illegal scam of hundreds of millions of rate payer and tax payer money. It is virtually certain that ANY candidate offered up by the County will be uncomfortable—or just downright unwilling to answer the following types of questions:

    • Professional background
    • Familiarity with financial plan
    • Commitment to transparency and community engagement
    • Commitment to driving down electricity rates
    • Familiarity with County’s failed $60 million pilot for Sonoma Clean Power, called Sonoma County Energy Independence
    • Candidate’s policy on outside auditors
    • Candidate’s commitment to ethical leadership standards

    Here are the key questions:

    1) Have you ever had profit and loss responsibility for any business unit of any size?
    2) Have you ever worked in a senior leadership job in a competitive market environment?
    3) Have you ever run a start up company? Have you ever run a local power company? 3.
    4) Could you outline the key market, operational and financial risks for Sonoma Clean Power?
    5) Could you outline the future of the global, then local energy business and how Sonoma Clean Power will survive?
    6) . Have you read the feasibility study on Sonoma Clean Power?http://www.scwa.ca.gov/files/docs/carbon-free-water/cca/CCA%20Feasibility%20Report%20101211.pdf
    7) Does it bother you that there is no balance sheet in this plan?
    8) Does it bother you that there is no way to estimate capital spending, debt, or cash flow adequacy without a balance sheet?
    9) Does it bother you that the Water Agency—with County Counsel’s support– lied to prevent public review of the Sonoma Clean Power financials and economics?
    10) If you were CEO of Sonoma Clean Power would you publicly commit to making your operations transparent to the public?
    11) Would you publicly commit to making public the excel spread sheets underlying the forecasts for income statement, balance sheet and cash flow for Sonoma Clean Power?
    12) Would you seek public comment and present your plans at meetings open to the public?
    13) Are you aware that the Water Agency publicly acknowledged that Healdsburg/NCPA rates are 10%% to 20%% lower than Sonoma Clean Power’s (and PG&E)?
    14) Are you aware that the Water Agency steadfastly refused to include, or make reference to, to the prospect of having Healdbsburg/NCPA run, or even participate in, Sonoma Clean Power in the Water Agency feasibility study?
    15) Would you publicly commit to considering alternatives to bring the best possible rates to Sonoma Clean Power’s rate payers?
    16) If it turned out that Healdsburg/NCPA were likely able to offer dramatically lower rates than the current proposed vendors, would you solicit a proposal from them for power provision to Sonoma County?
    17) If it turned that Healdsburg/NCPA were likely able to not only offer dramatically lower rates than current proposed vendors but were, on objective management and finance criteria, better qualified to run local power in Sonoma County according to the best standards of public service, would you consider requesting a proposal for Healdsburg/NCPA’s large scale takeover of Sonoma Clean Power?
    18) Would you be willing to state explicit goals for CO2 emissions reduction and for job increases?
    19) Are you aware that the Water Agency ran a pilot project for Sonoma Clean Power called Sonoma County Energy Independence )(“SCEIP”)?
    20) Are you aware that the Water Agency and the Board of Supervisors spent $60 million on SCEIP 2009-2013, and that on an annual basis during this four year period added only 20 jobs (for a total of 80 jobs over four years) and reduced carbon emissions by only 6000 tons a year compared to a County-and-cities goal of reducing CO2 by 1,300,000 tons a year. In plain English, are you aware that the BOS/Water Agency prior track record on local clean power was $60 million spent, with no effect on jobs on clean air? Were you aware that the federal government blacklisted SCEIP loans from secondary mortgage market trading almost from SCEIP’s inception?
    21) Were you aware—in a County a billion behind on pensions, and a billion behind on roads, that the County’s cash losses from SCEIP now exceed $3 million a year’ and that the County intends to fund these losses for another 20 years totaling $60 million invested in a failed program with plans to invest another $60 million to keep it going?
    22) Have the BOS and Water Agency discussed with you their plans to roll SCEIP into Sonoma Clean Power as a way of masking SCEIP’s operational and financial failures?
    23) Will you insist on hiring outside auditors to review the books of Sonoma Clean Power once you become CEO?
    24) If you discover payoffs, fraud or massive waste would you make a public report of these findings?

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  7. Grapevines says:

    $25,000 consulting fee for recruiting candidates – FLUSH!!

    $124,000 contract for just working on the project – FLUSH!!

    An unknown salary range for the position which has not been determined, yet – FLUSH!!!

    $$$$ – FLUSH!!!

    FLUSH, hear that sound?? It’s your taxdollars being flushed right down the drain. Get used to it, with “Sonoma Clean Power” we’ll need a bigger pipe!!!

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