SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A high-ranking official at the California agency that regulates utility companies has been fired over several allegedly unethical hiring decisions discussed in a recent personnel audit, according to a report.

The California Public Utilities Commission announced Monday it has voted to dismiss Executive Director Alice Stebbins effective Sept. 4, according to the report.

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Commission President Marybel Batjer said Stebbins had taken the “appalling and disgraceful” step of deliberately hiring a “marginally qualified former colleague” over better-suited candidates, among other claims detailed in a report from the State Personnel Board.

Stebbins maintains she is being forced out in retaliation for blowing the whistle on about $200 million in fees that the commission did not collect on time. But Batjer denied that claim at a public hearing, asserting that the dollar amount is far lower and the commission has not been lax with its collection efforts.

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The commission placed Stebbins on administrative leave several weeks ago. She is prepared to sue the agency over the employment dispute about the audit, which she claims is riddled with falsehoods, the Chronicle reported.

“The investigators did not know, nor were they interested in learning, that the entirety of the CPUC was in massive turmoil and the operations were highly inefficient when I arrived,” Stebbins said.

Stebbins is the top administrative official at the commission, which regulates businesses that provide electricity, gas, water, phone and transportation services in California.

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