Former executive tried to spy on anti-SmartMeter activists in Sebastopol

A state investigation says a former PG&E employee who used a false name to try to spy on activists in Sebastopol and elsewhere opposed to SmartMeters did not act alone but had support from senior managers.

William Devereaux resigned in November 2010 after admitting he used the name "Ralph" to try to infiltrate a Sebastopol-based online group of consumers opposed to PG&E's digital meters.

At the time, PG&E characterized him as a rogue employee who acted on his own. Devereaux was the senior director of PG&E's SmartMeter program from October 2009 through early November 2010.

A lengthy investigation by the state Public Utilities Commission revealed Devereaux forwarded emails he collected using the false identity to his boss and other senior managers at PG&E, including a member of the legal department.

"PG&E senior management knew of Mr. Devereaux's deceit before it was reported in the press and failed to prevent and stop his inappropriate behavior," said the eight-page finding from the PUC, released Wednesday.

"By lying to and infiltrating anti-smart meter consumer groups, Mr. Devereaux, acting on behalf of PG&E, violated PG&E's obligation to provide just and reasonable service to its customers," the finding said.

The names of senior managers involved were not revealed.

The PUC investigation now enters the "penalty phase," where regulators will determine what, if any, fines PG&E should pay.

"It confirms what we believed all along," said Sandi Maurer of Sebastopol, founder of the activist group EMF Safety Network. "That Devereaux didn't act alone. His supervisors and senior executives knew what he was doing."

Maurer met Devereaux at a forum in Sebastopol in April 2010. Then in November 2010, Maurer, the moderator of an online forum for anti-SmartMeter activists statewide, received an email from "Ralph," who said he lived in Oakland, asking to join the forum and help with group activities.

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