Suffering on L.I. as Power Agency Shows Its Flaws
By Danny Hakim, Patrick McGeehan and Michael Moss, New York Times, November 13/14, 2012
[...] The trustees’ approach toward the looming disaster reflects deep-rooted problems at the authority that have hobbled its response, causing hardship for hundreds of thousands of its customers, according to an examination of its performance by The New York Times. The bungling of the storm has called into question the authority’s very future. [...]
In many ways, the Long Island Power Authority, known as LIPA, reflects the shortcomings of the state’s quasi-independent public authorities, which are often criticized as a shadow government that resists scrutiny. Long Island is the only region of New York where the main electrical utility is run by the government.
While oversight has drifted, politicians have installed relatives and friends in executive positions at the authority, turning it into a rich source of patronage jobs, according to interviews and a review of state records. These positions have an average salary of $110,000, the records show.
“There are many, many people who have been placed at LIPA during my tenure here who have no utility experience or training in the job that they have been placed in,” said Tracy Burgess-Levy, the authority’s director of community relations [...]
Gov. Mario M. Cuomo set up the authority in the 1980s when the Long Island Lighting Company enraged customers by failing to restore service quickly after Hurricane Gloria. The company had also stirred controversy over high rates and plans to open the Shoreham nuclear power plant.
The elder Mr. Cuomo vowed that the authority would keep costs down and communicate better, but even before Tropical Storm Irene and Hurricane Sandy, it had alienated customers, who pay some of the highest rates in the nation.
The authority ranked last in two recent national satisfaction surveys of utility customers, one by J. D. Power & Associates and another by American Consumer Satisfaction Index.
Politicians often seem to focus on the authority when they are looking to place relatives and friends at jobs there, according to interviews, local news reports and payroll records.
Lynda Nicolino, the former counsel to the Suffolk County Republican Party, earns $260,000 a year as the authority’s general counsel. Barbara Ann Dillon, a $125,000 compliance officer, is the daughter of Denis Dillon, the former Nassau County district attorney. Andrew McCabe, an assistant general counsel paid $117,000 a year, is the son of a former top judge in Nassau County.
Other top executives include former aides to the state comptroller [...]