SDG&E; to Try to Prevent Release of Documents
San Diego Gas & Electric will try to keep O. Morris Sievert, a San Diego businessman who in December resigned from SDG&E;'s board of directors, from discussing the utility’s proposed merger with Southern California Edison during a Wednesday deposition requested by the city of San Diego, according to documents filed with state regulators.
According to those documents, SDG&E; wants to prevent Sievert, who resigned to protest the proposed utility merger, from making public a long list of documents that SDG&E;'s board generated while considering the proposed merger with Edison. The utility’s New York-based law firm last month asked the state Public Utilities Commission to prohibit Sievert from making the documents public during Wednesday’s deposition.
Sievert last week told the PUC that he has “no personal objection” to making public dozens of documents that he collected during the past year because full disclosure of the documents would lead to “a full public hearing on the proposed merger.”
Public concern in San Diego County over the proposed merger “appears to outweigh any interest in maintaining the ‘confidential’ or ‘privileged’ status of the documents in question,” according to Sievert’s filing.
SDG&E; spokesman Tom Murnane declined Monday to comment on SDG&E;'s request for a protective order, saying, “We will not comment on that until the day of the deposition. During the deposition, we will discuss our objections in detail.”
“SDG&E; is doing a fine job of trying to keep the city and the public from learning anything about this merger,” San Diego City Atty. John Witt said Monday. “We’re taking the position that this stuff should be handled publicly . . . and we’re going to get this stuff.”
The documents filed last week by Sievert’s attorney include an extensive list of records generated by meetings that SDG&E;'s board held to consider Edison’s proposed stock-swap merger. The list also includes records that detail the SDG&E; board meetings held to discuss an ill-fated attempt to complete a merger with Tucson Electric Power.
Sievert also hopes to introduce personal documents that SDG&E; Chairman Thomas Page and other SDG&E; executives and directors have maintained since Edison proposed the merger.
The large number of documents that Sievert plans to introduce “is very telling,” according to Michael Shames, executive director of Utility Consumers Action Network, a San Diego-based consumer group. “It showed that there are huge numbers of documents that have not been seen by the interested parties. It also proves that (the board’s) discussion about this merger was contentious and long-ranging.”
The city has subpoenaed Sievert to learn if Edison and SCEcorp, Edison’s parent company, coerced or threatened SDG&E;'s board members in order to gain support for the proposed merger. SDG&E;'s board voted to accept the merger offer in November, 1988. Shareholders of the two utilities will vote on the merger later this month.
Similar issues are expected to surface Monday, when the city attempts to gather testimony from businessman Charles (Red) Scott, who also resigned from the SDG&E; board in protest of the merger.