Weekend News Briefs from CVBT

December 1, 2017 9:01pm
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•  Prosecute utilities commission as a criminal, lawmakers urge

•  What motivates those millennials? The Great Recession, survey says

•  And more....

Lawmakers urge state to file criminal charges against CPUC

California’s Attorney General should file criminal charges against the California Public Utilities Commission, say two state lawmakers and the mayor of San Bruno.

The state’s criminal investigation of the regulatory body has been underway for more than three years and has apparently been blocked at every turn by lawyers from the CPUC, say Sen. Jerry Hill, Assemblyman Kevin Mullin and San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane.

The probe stemmed from the penalty imposed on Pacific Gas & Electric Company from the 2010 explosion of one of its pipelines that leveled a San Bruno neighborhood, killed eight and injured 38, plus the attempt by another utility to sock its customers with the cost of shutting down a nuclear reactor.

In a letter to Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the three say recently unsealed court documents make an even more compelling case for forceful steps because it is now clear that “the CPUC has been blocking your efforts at every turn.” This has included spending millions in taxpayer money for outside lawyers who, the CPUC claimed publicly, were to help the agency “comply with all applicable legal obligations,” the letter says.

Instead, the CPUC and its lawyers refused to turn over documents, did little to comply with search warrants and subpoenas, and filed motions to quash search warrants. The legal maneuvering and the misrepresentations of how taxpayer money was used were disclosed in records that were unsealed last week.

“It has been over seven years since the explosion in our community that took the lives of eight innocent citizens,” says San Bruno Mayor Ruane. “Numerous investigations since that time have revealed many troubling deficiencies in the CPUC's regulatory process ranging from lack of appropriate transparency to outright and pervasive collusion and corruption at the highest levels of the agency. It is time for the Attorney General's Office to take action. We cannot continue to wait.”

“The actions revealed by recently unsealed legal records are deeply troubling,” says Mr. Hill, D-San Mateo. “They are not what we have come to expect from the CPUC, given its new leadership and stated commitments to transparency and accountability. We have zero tolerance for the incidents that were at the core of the original investigation, and we have zero tolerance for actions that echo past practices by bad actors. We emphatically urge the Attorney General to fully and vigorously prosecute any violations of the law.”

State sues janitorial company for wage theft

Workers who cleaned Ross Dress-for-Less, dd’s Discount, JoAnn’s Fabrics, Burlington Coat Factory, Toys R Us stores and others were cheated out of wages by their employer, One Source Facility Solution, a janitorial subcontracting company based in Orange County, the state of California says.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra has filed suit against the company and its chief executive officer, Dilip Joshi.

One Source employs janitorial workers to clean retail establishments across California. In the lawsuit, the state alleges that One Source failed to pay workers the minimum wage, underreported payroll taxes, and provided false payroll information to its workers’ compensation insurance carrier. One Source is a subcontractor for USM, Inc., a nationwide facilities management company.

“One Source exploited these hardworking, modest-earning Californians who clean the very stores we shop in. That's not only illegal, it's despicable," says Mr. Becerra.


Two plead guilty in ID theft scheme

Two Woodland residents have pleaded guilty to a scheme to steal identities from mail obtained by fraudulent vacation holds and mail forwarding requests filed online, according to U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert.

Latomba Bishop, 32, pleaded guilty to mail fraud and aggravated identity theft, and Joshua Yadon, 34, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obtain mail by fraud.

According to court documents, Ms. Bishop, Mr. Yadon, and Norman Thompson, 36, of Sacramento, conspired to obtain credit cards, checks, and merchandise in victims’ names and then diverted these items from the victims’ true addresses to the conspirators’ addresses using fraudulent vacation holds and mail forwarding requests filed online with the U.S. Postal Service. The defendants were captured on video using fraudulently obtained credit cards at various retailers in the Sacramento area.

For her part, Ms. Bishop made a $1,000 online purchase of shoes using a victim’s compromised online merchant account. When the victim reported the fraud and the shipment was canceled, Ms. Bishop called the company, posing as the victim, and demanded she be reimbursed for the purchase.


Decade of recession motivates Millennials

Uniquely shaped by their coming-of-age during the Great Recession a decade ago, millennials demonstrate a “do-it-myself” mindset as they continue to pursue financial independence and self-sufficiency, according to a survey paid for by Merrill Lynch.

When asked what they’ll be able to rely on in 20 years, millennials’ top response was their savings account (66 percent) – a self-created and self-funded source. Millennials place greater trust in their own stewardship than they do in their personal relationships with their significant other (57 percent) and friends (56 percent). Their do-it-myself (DIM) mindset is evident in their willingness to save a significant portion of their paycheck; 38 percent of millennials say they are willing to save more than 50 percent of their own paycheck to have more money in the long run.

In sharp contrast, older generations are more likely to depend on outside sources for their financial security, such as employer- or government-funded accounts. For Gen Xers, this means relying on a 401(k) account (71 percent), while baby boomers are more likely to rely on pensions (54 percent) and Social Security (50 percent).

The survey of more than 1,000 mass affluent Americans, conducted between September 6 and September 24, shows the effects of the Great Recession don’t deter millennials from taking control of their financial future, says Merrill Lynch. Instead, this younger generation is willing to take matters into their own hands by making sacrificial spending decisions and delaying life milestones to have more money in the long run. The decisions and delays include:

• Cutting back on going out (54 percent).

• Skipping vacation for a year (42 percent).

• Delaying buying a house (36 percent).

• Postponing getting married or having children (33 percent).

This proactive and deliberate planning appears to manifest itself as conservatism for younger Americans. After witnessing the fallout of the years following the Great Recession and the effects it had on their older generational counterparts, millennials are more likely to “play it safe” with their day-to-day investments (85 percent), more so than other aspects of their life, including their career (80 percent), romantic life (73 percent) and travel (55 percent). The report also found millennials are most likely to see themselves as financially conservative compared to others, including their parents (46 percent) and grandparents (35 percent).


Merced Council to discuss cannabis tax on Monday

As an ordinance creating cannabis businesses goes up for final approval Monday night, the Merced City Council also will be asked for direction regarding a potential ballot measure for a cannabis tax.

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers on the second floor of the Merced City Hall, 678 W. 18th St.

The city had been on track to create an ordinance to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries in Merced after approval in August 2016. However, in November of that year, California voters passed Proposition 64, the “Adult Use of Marijuana Act,” which legalized recreational cannabis.

The ordinance before the City Council would allow both medical and recreational cannabis sales, along with delivery services, manufacturing, commercial cultivation, testing labs and distribution businesses.

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