Last year, SF Weekly reported that multiple nonprofits complained to the mayor's office that a PUC official warned against publicly questioning the CleanPowerSF program — if those nonprofits valued their PUC funding.
Then, earlier this year, the Chronicle reported that a Public Utilities Commission assistant general manager is under investigation after purportedly steering a $200,000 PUC contract to a nonprofit whose board she chaired.
It turns out that both of these stories involve allegations against the same PUC official: assistant general manager Juliet Ellis.
Ellis is alleged to have directed an "Energy Efficiency Job Strategies" contract to the Oakland nonprofit Green For All while still helming its board. And, on the cusp of the Board of Supervisors' September vote on the CleanPowerSF contract, SF Weekly documented multiple firsthand accounts of Ellis taking umbrage to a nonprofit worker's attempt to publicly question details of the deal. During the back and forth — which took place in and around board chambers — Ellis allegedly made reference to that nonprofit's PUC grant.
"I questioned why would funding come up at all in this situation," recalled the nonprofit worker at the time. "It was a very tense situation. I know how much they've got invested in the plan. I could have potentially derailed a lot of those efforts."
Multiple complaints regarding this — and potentially other — incidents were last year made to the mayor's office. Mayoral spokeswoman Christine Falvey referred SF Weekly to the PUC when asked last week about those complaints. PUC spokesman Tyrone Jue referenced the statement former General Manager Ed Harrington gave us last year: "That's not how we do business. That would be surprising to me."
Within the CleanPowerSF contract the supes approved is a $2 million earmark for energy efficiency work. This covers the same area as the contract Ellis allegedly steered to Green For All — but is worth 10 times as much. Should the supervisors have voted down the CleanPowerSF contract, this $2 million would have evaporated. Perhaps the PUC wasn't the only entity with a lot "invested in the plan."
Ellis remains employed at the PUC. "We're collecting all the facts before determining what, if any, action needs to be taken," Jue says.