Goldman school declines funds from controversial dinner for former state public utilities president

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Update 3/29/15: This article has been updated to reflect information about when Michael Aguirre was given records he requested from the campus. 

UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy has decided not to accept any funds raised from a controversial dinner held in February in honor of a former California Public Utilities Commission president.

The dinner in San Francisco was organized to honor Michael Peevey, a former president of the commission and long-term member of the Goldman school’s board of advisers, for his “lifetime of service to the people of California,” according to the event’s invitation letter. Net proceeds and gifts from the dinner, which amounted to about $55,000, were originally meant to benefit the public policy school.

Reported sponsors of the event included current and former high-ranking officials within the political and utility realms, according to the Sacramento Bee.

“In the context of these misunderstandings and misrepresentations surrounding the retirement dinner, it is not in the best interests of the school to accept any funds,” said Henry Brady, dean of the Goldman school, in an email sent to the school last week.

In the email, Brady also said that the Goldman school “neither conceived nor organized” the event and that the school would have simply been “the beneficiaries of the excess funds generated by the event.”

The dinner drew criticism because Peevey, who served as president of the commission for 12 years, is currently facing investigations because of alleged backchannel communications with utility companies.

The investigations come after the 2010 explosion of a PG&E-owned pipeline in San Bruno, California, which resulted in eight deaths. Emails between Peevey and a then-executive were recently made public.

Brady said that Peevey resigned from the Goldman school’s board of advisers after the dinner and that Peevey had written to him saying, “This sorry episode has led me to question my value to the school going forward.”

Meanwhile, former San Diego city attorney Michael Aguirre filed a lawsuit last week against the UC Board of Regents and Brady, demanding the campus comply with the California Public Records Act and release documents pertaining to the dinner.

Details that Aguirre requested include the extent of the Goldman school and its staff’s involvement in the dinner and any communication between the school and Peevey.

According to Aguirre’s attorney and law partner, Maria Severson, no records had been released earlier despite repeated requests.

Aguirre, however, received on Wednesday the records he requested, within the four weeks that the campus said they would take to give the records to him.

Severson said Aguirre, as a proud UC Berkeley alumnus, did not want to take action against the campus but felt “there were no other alternatives.”

UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof said the campus “strongly contest(s) any allegations that (it) violated in any way the law of California.”

Mogulof added that the campus had, before delivering the records, provided Aguirre with a time frame within which his requests would be fulfilled, as is required by the public records act.

Contact Natchapol Praditpetchara at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @natchapolp.

Clarification(s):
A previous version of this article may have implied that the campus was delayed in responding to Michael Aguirre’s records request. In fact, the campus provided the records within four weeks, which is the amount of time they told Aguirre the request would take.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article stated that the campus had not released requested records to Michael Aguirre. In fact, the campus released them on March 25.

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  • So Kali

    Dirty money, from a criminal!