LIPA trustees meet to talk exec search

During the LIPA trustees meeting and vote on During the LIPA trustees meeting and vote on who gets the new 10-year management contract, Chairman Howard Steinberg listening to other trustees speak. (Dec. 15, 2011) Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

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LIPA trustees met Friday to begin the process of finding and hiring two top executives for the embattled authority, as well as other staff "adjustments," the authority's chairman said.

No decision on a new chief executive officer or chief operating officer were expected to be made Friday, chairman Howard Steinberg said in an interview.

"We have until the end of the year, which is a relatively short amount of time," he said.

In addition to screening candidates for those posts in the wake of chief Michael Hervey's resignation, Steinberg said the authority will make other personnel shifts.

"We are looking at those two positions, and whether or not other adjustments need to be made in terms of staff," he said, with an eye toward "more efficient use of staff."

Clearly, he said, LIPA will not be increasing its 100-member ranks.

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Steinberg declined to discuss any specific people being considered for the top LIPA posts except to say, "There are people that the board is going to be taking a look at. I wouldn't call them candidates per se."

The CEO post, which has been vacant for more than two years, was at one point expected to be filled by North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman. In an interview Friday, Kaiman said he has been in contact with state officials, though it remains uncertain whether he's a candidate.

"There are continued discussions," he said. "There's such a larger discussion going on, we'll see where it takes us. We'll see where life takes me in the near future."

LIPA trustees on Friday also approved the hiring of the Empire Association of Electrical Inspectors and Local 25 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to serve as electrical inspectors in neighborhoods devastated by superstorm Sandy. Homes and businesses in flooded areas of the South Shore, from Mastic to the Rockaways, experienced damage to their electrical systems as a result of the storm, and LIPA must inspect the homes before service can be restored. The contracts are valued at up to $1 million.

In other news, the outage map on LIPA's website now includes information on estimated restoration times for the roughly 1,000 customers who are without power. LIPA took the system down in the middle of the restoration because the information could not be updated.

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The map allows customers affected by an outage to zoom into their neighborhood and click a hard-hat icon to see how many customers are affected, whether a crew has been assigned, and when LIPA expects to restore power.

Steinberg said the work facing LIPA and trustees is unprecedented, including a transition to a new company to manage the grid, PSEG, by the end of 2013.

"It's herculean," he said. "This is the biggest challenge that LIPA has ever faced under the most difficult circumstance LIPA has ever been in."

Trustees too, have been under pressure. LIPA has removed extensive biographical information about trustees from its website, including where the trustees work.

"I think you need a lot of courage to come on this board, it's a very tough place to be," Steinberg said. "People are volunteering. People here work very hard, and nobody's getting paid anything."

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The storm heightened those difficulties. "It was a very difficult time for board members," Steinberg said. "People were getting harassed and threatened. If they did get paid it would be combat pay."

With Scott Eidler

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