News

Facing Senate rebuke, Desmond gets new gig

The day before California Energy Commission chairman Joe Desmond would have
been forced to resign his post without Senate confirmation, Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger created a new, high-paying position in the state Resources
Agency specifically for Desmond.

On Wednesday, Schwarzenegger appointed Desmond undersecretary of energy
affairs for the Resources Agency. It is a brand new job that will allow
Desmond to coordinate the governor’s energy initiatives and provide counsel
to the administration on energy policies, said a Schwarzenegger spokeswoman.
“He is an expert,” said Schwarzenegger press secretary Margita Thompson.
“The governor values his expertise and the state and administration are
fortunate to have his expertise on these issues.”

The new job pays $123,255 per year.

Desmond was first appointed by Schwarzenegger to head the energy commission
last May to complete the unexpired term of predecessor William Keese.

But Desmond ran afoul of Senate Democrats, led by Senate President Pro Tem
Don Perata, D-Oakland, who disagreed with Desmond on several critical energy
issues, including electricity-market deregulation, expansion of coal-fired
power and new fees on power customers–all of which Desmond has at one time
advocated.

In a January meeting with the governor, Senate Leader Perata made clear that
if the governor were to appoint Desmond to a full term as energy-commission
chairman, the Senate would not confirm Desmond.

But Schwarzenegger still reappointed Desmond as chairman on January 27.

Desmond would have had to be confirmed both by the Senate Rules Committee
and the full Senate by May 10. But, under Perata’s direction, the Senate
never scheduled a confirmation hearing for Desmond, who, before being
appointed as undersecretary for the Resources Agency, would have been forced
to step down.

“The administration and governor were hopeful that Mr. Desmond would receive
a fair hearing and confirm by the Senate,” said Thompson. “He is eminently
qualified to serve as chair of the energy commission.”

On Wednesday, Perata sounded pleased to have Desmond gone from the energy
commission.

“That job may prove to be a better fit for Mr. Desmond,” said Perata of the
undersecretary post. “I look forward to a new appointment to chair the
energy commission that is more appropriate in terms of the agency’s
mission.”

Desmond first joined the Schwarzenegger administration in 2004 as a deputy
secretary of energy at the Resources Agency. Prior to working in state
government, Desmond was the president and CEO of Infotility, Inc., an
energy-consulting and software-development firm. Before that he served as an
executive in several energy firms and worked as the marketing and
demand-planning administrator for a publicly owned utility.

Desmond’s new post does not require Senate confirmation.


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