SEMPRA ISSUES VIDEO STATEMENT ON LOBBYING SCANDAL, LAUNCHES INTERNAL INVESTIGATION

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By Miriam Raftery

September 10, 2009 (San Diego) – Sempra Energy today issued a video statement expressing “shock” at news that a lobbyist for the company has been implicated in a sex scandal with Mike Duvall (R-Orange County), vice chair of the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee. Duvall resigned yesterday, after his videotaped boasts were widely publicized, as East County Magazine reported, but now claims his taped statements were untrue. The comments were made in a committee room prior to a televised hearing, with Duvall apparently unaware that a microphone was live. 

 

"We were as shocked as anyone by these reports. We demand the highest ethical standards of our employees. We do not and will not tolerate the type of behavior alleged. This is not how we do our business," said Joyce Rowland, Sempra's senior vice president of human resources and chief ethics officer in a video posted on YouTube http://www.sacbee.com/static/weblogs/capitolalertlatest/025358.html . (The utility has not responded to requests for comment from East County Magazine.)
 

Rowland added that Sempra is launching an internal investigation into the allegations but pledged to be fair to the employee, who has denied the allegations, according to a press statement issued previously by Sempra. The Orange County Weekly has identified the lobbyist as Heidi DeJong Barsuglia based on her birth date, which matches a statement Duvall made on tape, and based on unnamed witnesses who reportedly saw Barsuglia and Duvall arm-in-arm around town.

 

Barsuglia also faces a potential investigation by the Assembly Ethics Committee, capitol sources have informed East County Magazine. (A spokesperson at the Secretary of State’s Office said that although the office registers lobbyists, it does not have power to conduct investigations or take corrective action if wrongdoing occurs.)
 

Licensed to practice law in California under her maiden name, Heidi DeJong, the lobbyist could also potentially face charges from the California Bar Association. The state Bar would not confirm if complaints have been filed against Barsuglia, citing confidentiality requirements. However if the Bar should investigate a complaint and find DeJong violated rules of misconduct, the consequences could be severe. “A lawyer’s discipline can range anywhere from a reproval to a suspension to disbarment,” state Bar spokeperson Kathleen Beitiks confirmed. DeJong has been licensed to practice law in California since February 2002 and has had no prior disciplinary actions.
 

Barsuglia is a graduate of McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific. She is also a graduate of the Weimar Academy, a Christian school in Northern California supportive of Seventh Day Adventist beliefs with a mission statement which pledges to “Lead to Christ, Educate to Excel, and Inspire for Service.”
 

At a Classmates.com webpage for Barsuglia, several posts criticized the alumni for the scandal. “What a sad way to conduct business. How much sadder for family members who's trust you have violated and feelings you have hurt,” one post read.