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Riverside County Supervisor Kevin Jeffries updates community on Kurt Wilson, WRCOG

Riverside County First District Supervisor Kevin Jeffries. Photo by Canyon Lake Insider.

The following updates were provided by Riverside County District 1 Supervisor Kevin Jeffries. District 1 encompasses the cities of Canyon Lake, Wildomar, Lake Elsinore, most of the City of Riverside, and several unincorporated communities.

A Man on a Mission
Who is Kurt Wilson, and will he succeed in turning around a messy government agency that few know anything about and even fewer keep an eye on?

I’ve written about this little-known government agency before. It’s the Western Riverside Council of Governments (WRCOG), and a gentleman by the name Kurt Wilson was hired in mid-2021 to turn that ship around and serve as its new Executive Director.

Kurt is a kind and gentle soul that has a record of fixing broken organizations. He has optimism, hope, and most importantly he seems to have a good moral and ethical compass to guide him. His only downfall is that he works for a government entity that has a history of wanting more: more money, more programs, more authority.

Some of you will recall that WRCOG grabbed some national attention some years back for its very cozy financial relationship (read: monopoly) with a private firm that exclusively arranged financing for energy efficiency/solar installation loans on a massive scale. That backroom monopoly provided millions of dollars in proceeds to WRCOG over many years. It was as if WRCOG had its own printing presses.

Not surprising, the private firm ultimately attracted various investigations by local, state, and federal investigators, lawsuits, and then went bankrupt. And because one defunct and financially questionable program was not enough, in 2019 WRCOG kicked off yet another new government organization known as the Western Community Energy (WCE) organization. Its goal was to dive into the high stakes, financially unstable energy markets and resell power to homes and businesses.

Just like Governor Gray Davis learned from the 2001 energy crisis, the energy market is not for the faint of heart or those with limited bank accounts. WRCOG apparently thought it was smarter than most and started dumping millions of government dollars into its newly created WCE organization. About $3 million of local funds were provided as “seed” money, and another $2 million followed.

By May 2021, the WCE was already a financial mess and quickly needed to seek bankruptcy protections. And key WRCOG/WCE staff had already started heading out the door, leaving behind a heap of unanswered questions. Either because of deafness, blind trust, or because some were willing to gamble with other people’s money, the WRCOG/WCE governing commission was caught with its pants down.

Unsuspecting WCE customers (residents and businesses) were left with debt and high fees to get back onto the local energy grid. Within a few months of the above financial disaster, a new executive director for WRCOG was found, Mr. Kurt Wilson. Within months of his arrival, Mr. Wilson found and reported to the WRCOG commission that roughly one million dollars (out of the $5 million) given to the (failed) WCE had never been authorized or approved by the WRCOG commission for loan or transfer to the WCE. It appears someone in power behind the scenes just did it. Gave it away. In my book, if that’s not criminal, it’s malfeasance. Someone needs to answer for it.

On a Happy Note
Lots and lots of Christmas events are occurring across the First District (yes, I know that I’m supposed to be politically correct and say “Holiday events”). Please, support and shop at your local, small businesses whenever you can. They are the backbone in many of our communities.

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