PG&E’s black ops

Who was PG&E spying on in Yolo County during a bitter political campaign to unseat the utility and replace it with the not-for-profit Sacramento Municipal Utility District?

Back on August 1, the Davis City Council passed a resolution reaffirming its commitment to public power. Public power activist Dan Berman stood up to support the resolution, but also asked the city to look into some interesting PG&E expenditures he found in documents filed with the California Public Utilities Commission

It seems that PG&E had hired a Davis-based private investigating company called Digistream as a consultant. Aside from regular private-eye stuff, Digistream’s Web site boasts that the company can provide the services of its Mobile Unmanned Recording Facility, or MURF, a tricked-out spy mobile equipped with digital cameras and computer gear that can covertly record its targets 24-seven. PG&E paid Digistream just over $30,000 in 2005, and another $29,135 in 2006, when the public-power campaign was in full swing.

“What I would like to know is whether or not Digistream was conducting any sort of surveillance for PG&E connected with the public-power campaigns,” Berman told Davis council members.

Turns out, the Davis City Council wants to know, too. And now City Manager Bill Emlen is watching the detectives. He told SN&R early indications were that the snooping was “part of a personnel matter.” Large companies often use investigators like Digistream to ferret out workers-comp fraud.

We called PG&E to ask about the contract, but PG&E didn’t call back. And since PG&E is a privately owned company, it doesn’t really have to tell anybody who it was spying on anyway.