PG&E responds with counterclaim in Bay Area Concrete Recycling’s suit.
Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) has submitted a counterclaim accusing two former employees, Ronald Huggins Jr. and Ryan Kooistra, of accepting bribes in order to create more business for waste hauler, Bay Area Concrete Recycling, particularly in the aftermath of Camp Fire, a well-known California wildfire. The court filing alleges that, in exchange for kickbacks, the employees’ pledged to set the company up with lucrative jobs, and named Bay Area Concrete and its owners, both former PG&E employees, Bay Area Concrete CEO Kevin Olivero and several other companies as defendants.
The allegations follow an investigation into PG&E contending that the company had missed warning signs when it hired Bay Area Concrete, owned by couple Yadwinder “Kevin” Singh and Preet Johal, according to public documents. The business had a history of illegal dumping on federally protected wetlands and had engaged in long-standing dispute with Hayward regulators, the location of a Bay Area Concrete dumpsite.
The latest counterclaim says one supervisor allegedly had his driveway paved and billed it to PG&E, while another employee received a bribe for a multimillion-dollar property transfer to an affluent area of San Francisco. Huggins has since retired and Kooistra sold his residence and “moved out of state after being confronted by PG&E investigators,” according to the counterclaim.
The most recent litigation follows a breach of contract lawsuit filed against it in October 2020 by Bay Area Concrete. In the suit, Bay Area Concrete alleged that it “had saved PG&E millions of dollars by doing disposal work in Paradise more cheaply than a competitor.” It also said that it “continued to work for PG&E as other companies fled when the utility declared bankruptcy in January 2019. At the time, PG&E owed Bay Area Concrete nearly $4 million, according to bankruptcy filings. Bay Area Concrete stuck around and opened a new dump on PG&E property in Petaluma.” According to court documents, PG&E “racked up $14 million in unpaid invoices.”
PG&E initially learned of the alleged scheme in late 2019 and launched an investigation at that time. Kooistra was interviewed in January 2020, while confronted with documented evidence. Kooistra “denied any wrongdoing or having an interest in the companies, despite the interest being disclosed in public records,” According to the complaint. He then “moved to Arizona.”
In a statement, PG&E spokesperson James Noonan said the scheme orchestrated by Bay Area Concrete was “completely unacceptable. We will pursue every available action to remedy the situation and do right by those that we have the privilege to serve. As we have stated previously, PG&E will continue to hold ourselves and those that do work on our behalf to the highest ethical standards.”
San Francisco Bay Planning Commissioner previous said of the recycler, “At the end of the day, this is really an illegal business that’s asking to continue operating, and it’s been illegal since 2013.”
Dawn Sweatt, an attorney for Bay Area Concrete, responded that her clients “vehemently deny” the accusations. “The allegations are patently false and not supported by the evidence,” she said. “The litigation process will make this clear in time.”