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PG&E fires debris hauler on wildfire cleanup, alleging over-billing, payoffs

by Dale Kasler, Sacramento Bee |

Pacific Gas and Electric Corp. said Monday it fired a company that was hauling Camp Fire debris from Paradise, Calif., after discovering the company was over-billing the utility and paying “large sums of money and gifts” to two PG&E supervisors.

The two employees “are no longer with the company,” said PG&E Chief Executive Bill Johnson in a memo to his workforce.

Johnson said PG&E severed its contracts with Bay Area Concrete Recycling after looking into allegations about payoffs and over-billing. The preliminary in-house investigation confirmed the allegations.

The disclosure could create another black eye for PG&E, which is laboring to get California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s approval for its bankruptcy reorganization plan.

The company was embarrassed last fall by revelations in the San Francisco Chronicle that top executives from its natural gas division had mingled with business customers at a winery in Sonoma County just as PG&E was preparing for a massive “public safety power shutoff.” A gas executive was fired.

PG&E was driven into Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings because of billions of dollars in claims from the November 2018 Camp Fire and the 2017 wine country fires. The Camp Fire killed 85 people and destroyed most of Paradise. It was the deadliest wildfire in California history.

Johnson said PG&E has notified its probation officer and federal monitor — a court-appointed attorney who is overseeing PG&E’s safety efforts. PG&E is on probation after being convicted of multiple felonies in connection with the fatal 2010 natural gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, Calif. The utility also reported the issue to the state Public Utilities Commission.

“This is unacceptable behavior and does not live up to the high ethical standards we aspire to as individuals and as a company,” Johnson wrote.

A woman answering the phone at Bay Area Concrete’s offices in Union City, Calif., said the company would have no comment. She then hung up the phone.

PG&E spokesman Matt Nauman said the utility has transferred the debris cleanup work to other vendors. “We’ve lined them up and they’re working so we don’t delay our work up there,” he said.

He wouldn’t identify the two supervisors or disclose any other details about their involvement with Bay Area Concrete.