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