SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A lobbyist hired to secure a state loan to help tens of thousands of victims of California’s devastating wildfires is leaving his job amid a sexual harassment scandal, it was announced Wednesday.
Patrick McCallum and PG&E Fire Victim Trust “have agreed to part ways, effective immediately, in light of certain recent publicly disclosed developments,” a trusted statement said.
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The developments were a “distraction” from the trust’s work helping some 70,000 wildfire victims rebuild their lives, trust administrator John Trotter said in the statement.
The trust was created to compensate victims of the Northern California wildfires in 2015, 2017 and 2018, including a 2018 fire that killed 85 people and largely destroyed the city of Paradise, northeast of San Francisco.
The fires were blamed on Pacific Gas & Electric’s long-neglected power grid, and the company was forced into bankruptcy, which it exited in 2020.
The trust is run independently of PG&E, but is financed with money and stock from the nation’s second-largest utility, which could be sold. However, PG&E’s stock prices have fallen, leaving a void that the trust is trying to fill by applying for a $1.5 billion loan from the state.
McCallum, a veteran lobbyist, was brought in to help with that effort. He lost his house to a wildfire in Santa Rosa in 2017.
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McCallum said in a statement that he was proud of his work for the trust and urged approval of a state loan to ensure fire victims receive compensation “so they can finish building their home, pay their medical bills, rebuild their business and in some cases they leave the trailer in which they have been living.
McCallum’s wife, Judy Sakaki, is president of Sonoma State University.
The Press-Democrat and Los Angeles Times reported this month that the Cal State system paid $600,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a former school president who said Sakaki retaliated against her for reporting complaints from female college employees that McCallum had sexually harassed during a party at his house.
McCallum denied the allegations and apologized for any behavior he said might have made people uncomfortable, the Press-Democrat reported.
Sakaki announced Monday that he was separating from McCallum.
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