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Long Island

Former state utility watchdog takes finance job at PSEG LI

A PSEG Long Island crew is seen at

A PSEG Long Island crew is seen at work on July 10, 2014. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

The former state-appointed chief financial watchdog over the Long Island electric utilities has taken a job with PSEG Long Island, a company she previously monitored.

Gina Critelli, who was chief of utility accounting, audit and finance in the Long Island office of the state Department of Public Service, now works for PSEG in its finance department, PSEG confirmed.

State law forbids state employees from drawing compensation or appearing before the companies they formerly regulated for two years after they leave state employment unless they receive a special opinion letter from the Joint Commission on Public Ethics citing circumstances that would allow it.

PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir said Critelli and other employees who formerly worked for the Long Island Power Authority and now work for PSEG all “went through the process and were approved to come and work here.” LIPA is a state authority, while PSEG Long Island is part of investor-owned PSEG of Newark, New Jersey.

Walter McClure, a spokesman for the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, declined to comment, noting, “Any advice and guidance we might provide is confidential.”

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s LIPA Reform Act gave DPS “review and recommend” status with LIPA and PSEG, whereas all other utilities operating in the state are “regulated” by the Public Service Commission. The PSC technically has no jurisdiction over LIPA or PSEG, though in matters such as the recently approved Clean Energy Standard, LIPA is expected to adopt commission rulings.

One government watchdog said the situation bears scrutiny.

“If the law does not create a revolving door cooling-off period or ban in this case, it’s a legal loophole that should be closed,” said Russ Haven, legislative counsel for the New York Public Interest Research Group, an Albany-based government watchdog. “By the state’s own description, the DPS Long Island office was created to perform a LIPA oversight role.”

Critelli’s name appears on state documents filed as part of the PSEG/LIPA rate-hike proceeding of 2015, which will result in an average 3 percent delivery charge increase over the next two years.

DPS spokesman James Denn said Critelli “complied with department rules in terms of applying for employment. She also “recused herself from all PSEG matters prior to the application” for the PSEG job. The DPS office in Bethpage has 21 employees, Denn said.

When PSEG took over management of the LIPA grid from National Grid in January 2014, many former LIPA staffers and managers moved to PSEG. As state employees, they would have needed similar letters from the ethics commission — approvals that PSEG said they too received.

Weir declined to comment on any specific employee’s case, noting, “We’re a private company and there are very strict confidentiality rules we have to abide by.”

Critelli didn’t return a message to PSEG seeking comment.

CLARIFICATION: New York law bars state employees from practicing or appearing before their former agency for two years after they leave state employment. An earlier version of this article was unclear about the law.

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