PG&E executive caught spying on critics
November 9, 2010
A senior PG&E executive, responsible for overseeing the utility’s controversial SmartMeter program, has admitted using a false name to try to join an online group opposed to the meters and secretly monitoring other online forums critical of PG&E. [Mercury News]
William Devereaux, senior director for the SmartMeter program, admitted the ruse Monday in an interview with the Bay Area News Group.
Activists caught on to Devereaux late last week, when the PG&E executive tried to join the California EMF Coalition, which maintains an online discussion group for people concerned about electromagnetic radiation.
Sandi Maurer, a Sebastopol resident, uses Google Groups to moderate the coalition’s online discussion group, and she often e-mails people before allowing them access to the small group. On Thursday, she said she received an e-mail from someone using the address “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
“I live in Oakland where Smart meters have been sweeping across town and wanted to learn more about them and join the conversation to see what I can do to help out here,” wrote the person, who signed his name as “Ralph.”
But the e-mail message also revealed that the address actually belonged to Devereaux. Maurer recognized his name immediately — she met Devereaux in person at a forum last spring.
“He’s disguised himself, used a false name, said his name was Ralph and pretended to want to help our cause,” Maurer said. “It’s symbolic of what PG&E has become: deceptive and untrustworthy.”
Devereaux admitted that he used the name “Ralph” to try to join the group and said the whole thing was a mistake.
He said he acted on his own without informing other PG&E executives. It was not immediately clear how the utility would react to his disclosure. Devereaux said he had “no idea” whether he would be asked to resign.
PG&E has been blamed by state regulators and others in the growing smart-grid industry for installing the new meters without educating consumers and dismissing their complaints.
In summer 2009, scores of consumers in Bakersfield and elsewhere complained that the meters were causing wild spikes in their electric bills. An independent survey found nothing wrong with the meters, but berated PG&E for poor customer service.