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Energy Corporation Under a Cloud, Director Terminated

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday September 11, 2007

The Berkeley Community Energy Services Corporation is under investigation and its executive director, Nancy Hoeffer, has been terminated. 

The CESC is a 20-year-old nonprofit organization whose board is the city’s Energy Commission appointed by the Berkeley mayor and City Council. The Energy Commission, sitting as the CESC board, “decided to end the employment of an at-will employee” at the end of August, Rae Mary, interim director of housing, told the Daily Planet on Monday. (The Housing Department oversees the city’s Energy Division.”) 

The termination was “not for cause,” Energy Commission Chair Ruth Grimes told the Planet. 

An investigator is being hired to look at “rumors of misuse of funds,” said Mary, who is a retired manager from Oakland’s housing office and who will be directing the Housing Department until a permanent employee is hired to replace former Housing Director Steve Barton.  

Mary said the CESC continues to deliver services to the city while being closely monitored. 

CESC is funded mostly by local and national government entities and by Pacific Gas and Electric; calls to CESC for more precision were not returned.  

According to the city’s energy division website, the nonprofit provides commercial energy conservation services and “is the prime contractor for a $1.3 million, five-year Rebuild America grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The goal of the grant is to influence energy-efficiency projects in eight million square feet of commercial and multi-family floor space in Berkeley, Oakland and Emeryville.” 

CESC is the fiscal sponsor for Sustainable Berkeley, a grouping of organizations and agencies including the Ecology Center, UC Berkeley, “green” health and dentistry businesses, Livable Berkeley, private consultants, the city and the CEAC. Hoeffer was a Sustainable Berkeley board member representing CESC.  

“We have no problem with CESC,” said Sustainable Berkeley spokesperson Catherine Squire in a voicemail message to the Daily Planet. “The problems with CESC have not affected Sustainable Berkeley.” 

An agenda for the Aug. 28 CESC closed-door session that listed “Employee discipline/dismissal” was provided to the Daily Planet by the city clerk. While Energy Commission meetings are posted on the clerk’s website, the CESC board meeting agendas are not; they are posted on the bulletin board in front of the Maudelle Shirek Building (Old City Hall), Grimes said. 

Grimes also noted there have been discussions about concerns with CESC for about a year that included members of city staff, the CESC board and an advisory committee. She declined to name the members of that committee or to discuss the concerns in question.