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Tamela R. Monroe, LIPA's new finance chief, has record-high salary

The LIPA Power Plant in Northport is seen

The LIPA Power Plant in Northport is seen from above on July 1, 2019. Credit: Newsday / John Keating

LIPA’s latest executive hire becomes the utility's highest paid staffer on record. 

LIPA trustees last week unanimously approved the hiring of Tamela R. Monroe as chief financial officer, at a salary of $325,500, according to LIPA records. As such she'll be paid more than LIPA’s next highest paid executive,  president and chief executive Tom Falcone, whose base pay is $287,385 (or $303,477 with pay for unused vacation). The previous full-time chief financial officer, Joseph Branca, made $251,539, before leaving two years ago, according to state records.

LIPA, in disclosing Monroe’s salary in board filings, said it’s justified given her experience, the “significantly” higher cost of living on Long Island, and its finding that the pay is “approximately average” compared to an industry benchmarking survey.

Before joining LIPA, she was chief planning and finance officer and acting chief executive for Colorado Springs Utilities, and CFO and senior director of business analysis and pricing for the Omaha Public Power District. She’ll assume the CFO role Sept. 1. 

Monroe left Colorado Springs Utilities in September, after being placed on administrative leave after two years with the utility, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. A board member of the utility, Tom Strand, told the paper, “My understanding is that she didn’t get along with the current CEO. And he had asked her to do a couple of projects that she just didn’t do or didn’t do to his liking.” Strand himself told the paper he thought Monroe did “a really good job.”

Strand on Wednesday said of Monroe, "I thought she was spectacular. I appreciated everything she did. I was heartbroken when she left, but the CEO gets to make that decision." 

Falcone in an interview said Monroe's salary "reflects what it costs to attract someone at her skill level and experience" to Long Island, where costs are high. "We of course vetted in many, many ways her experience and capabilities and are really pleased she's with us." 

Asked if her hiring were part of succession planning should he ever decided to leave, he noted the board would make any replacement decision, but added, "We need good people. ... At some point everybody leaves. My job is to make sure LIPA is in the right spot today and in the future." 

Monroe’s base salary comes closest to that of the last highest paid LIPA official — former chief executive Kevin Law, who made $295,000 before departing to become president and chief executive of the Long Island Association. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo makes $198,765.

Monroe takes the reins from acting chief financial officer Kenneth Kane, a longtime LIPA finance and audit executive, who will now take the role as senior adviser for oversight. His base salary last year was $281,040.  

Kane, a Long Islander who has been with LIPA since 1999 and previously worked in finance and accounting for LIPA predecessor Long Island Lighting Co. for 11 years, had applied for the CFO job and got good reviews for his tenure at the post, according to LIPA.

“As Interim Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Kane's tenure marked one of the most successful periods in LIPA's history, with three credit rating upgrades; $100 million of savings from reducing LIPA's cost of debt; and two budgets that delivered record investments in clean energy, customer satisfaction, and reliability, while keeping bills flat for customers,” LIPA wrote of Kane on its executive staff web page, noting Kane’s 36 years of experience.

Matthew Cordaro, who has served as acting chairman of the LIPA board during recent trustee meetings, was among those who approved of Monroe’s hiring, but in an interview said the former acting chief financial officer appeared to be working out.

“All I can say is, I was very satisfied with the job the interim CFO was doing,” Cordaro said. “But the CEO has the right to go out and look for someone who he wants. It’s hard to object to that.”

Falcone said Kane had done a "very nice job" as CFO, but said the new oversight role was "the job he wants to be in." 

Monroe, who wasn't available for comment, won’t immediately take the CFO role. Instead, she's serving now as senior adviser to the chief executive officer for finance, a transition role, until September, before assuming her new spot. For now, the acting CFO is also LIPA’s chief information officer, Mujib Lodhi.

Comments listed by the LIPA committee members who interviewed Monroe included, “Can hit the ground running,” and “Is passionate about our industry and public power.”

The New York Power Authority, which operates across the state, last year hired Adam Barsky as chief financial officer at an annual salary of $275,000. NYPA chief executive Gil Quiniones had a 2019 base salary of $276,000 and total pay of $299,008, according to state records.

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