Sempra’s water failure

Conflict of interest for the San Diego power monopoly

Jerry Butkiewicz needed clarification on conflict of interest as it pertained to Sempra. Lani Lutar, meanwhile, knows she’s cleared to pull in the corporate cash.
  • Jerry Butkiewicz needed clarification on conflict of interest as it pertained to Sempra. Lani Lutar, meanwhile, knows she’s cleared to pull in the corporate cash.

Locked in mortal combat with a group seeking to dismantle its longstanding San Diego power monopoly, giant Sempra Energy and its subsidiary San Diego Gas & Electric have been busy lining up the services of local lobbyists.

One member of the utilities’ influence-peddling corral is Lani Lutar, onetime chief of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. According to a March 3 disclosure filing, Lutar’s Responsible Solutions was paid $975 by Sempra Services Corp, approved by state utility regulators to lobby against so-called community choice aggregations.

But Jerry Butkiewicz, Sempra’s longtime workforce readiness manager, received bad news from the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission in his quest to get a similar gig. The former big-labor functionary and longtime SDG&E executive was appointed last year to the San Diego County Water Authority board by San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, taking office in January.

“May Mr. Butkiewicz participate in Water Authority contract decisions regarding San Diego Gas & Electric, if he accepts employment as a contract consultant for SDG&E’s independent marketing division, Sempra Services Corporation?” was the question posed in a February 6 opinion letter to the water agency from the political watchdog’s general counsel Hyla Wagner.

The document concludes the answer is no, going on to explain that if Butkiewicz accepted the power company’s contract position, he would have an automatic conflict of interest and “may not participate in the making of any contracts with SDG&E.” In addition, the water authority itself “would be barred from making further contracts or renegotiating existing contracts with SDG&E.”

Adds the letter, “the prohibition cannot be avoided by having the interested board member abstain; the entire governing body is precluded from entering into the contract.”

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