Michael Peevey ended his tumultuous final term as president of the California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday with a lengthy, laudatory and at times feisty farewell session.
As the crowd gave him a standing ovation to the strains of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” Peevey closed his final remarks with a laugh: “I surrender. Don’t shoot, I surrender!”
Peevey announced in October that he would not seek reappointment after two terms as head of the board that regulates California’s massive energy and telecommunications industries. He was caught in scandal this fall following the release of e-mails showing back-channel communications between Peevey and a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. executive over political contributions.
That incident was mostly ignored during an extended send-off that included praise from colleagues, quotations of President Barack Obama and Robert Frost, and a letter from former Gov. Gray Davis, who first appointed Peevey to the commission in 2002. But Peevey briefly hinted at the fallout, noting, “We did get things done, maybe not always in the smoothest, kindest, most political way.”
Early in the meeting, the public comment period extended for hours as industry professionals took turns praising Peevey for his advocacy on renewable energy, as well as his early work as a labor organizer and his commitment to diversity.
“Plan to be here all day,” Peevey joked. “We’ll take a lunch break.”
One angry commenter brought up the e-mails with PG&E and told Peevey he should be jailed for corruption, prompting a quick spat between the men. The microphone cut off and the commenter was nearly escorted from the room, but Peevey eventually allowed him to continue speaking after audience chants of “Free speech!”
“I don’t like the things you’re accusing me of,” Peevey warned. “I’m counseling you to to choose your words carefully.”
Call The Bee’s Alexei Koseff, (916) 321-5236. Follow him on Twitter @akoseff.