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LIPA officials to meet on Hervey succession plan, probes

LIPA COO Michael Hervey speaks about the remaining

LIPA COO Michael Hervey speaks about the remaining power outages at National Grid Headquarters in Hicksville. (Nov. 12, 2012) Credit: Howard Schnapp

LIPA trustees are planning to hold an unscheduled board meeting Friday to discuss a succession plan in the wake of chief Michael Hervey's resignation and numerous state inquiries on the horizon.

The Long Island Power Authority Thursday also said it restored power to all those customers initially impacted by superstorm Sandy and the subsequent nor'easter, with the exception of about 28,000 customers on the Rockaway Peninsula, Long Beach, Fire Island and elsewhere that require electrical repairs and inspections. About 2,200 outages that occurred after the storms also remain to be restored, LIPA said.

"We are now focused on working with those communities and customers in the flood zones, restoring those outages post-Sandy and nor'easter, and getting the transmission and distribution system back to a normal state," spokesman Mark Gross said.

LIPA's board is said to be facing the prospect of not only filling the top two slots at the authority -- the long vacant chief executive spot and Hervey's chief operating officer position -- but also their dwindling ranks.

People close to LIPA say at least one board member is considering resigning in the aftermath of the Sandy restoration. A call to the trustee was not returned Thursday. Chairman Howard Steinberg also didn't return a phone call.

LIPA's trustee ranks already are thin -- only 10 members of the full 15-member board remain. Former trustee David Calone, who devoted considerable time to developing new generating sources for LIPA, resigned in October after his term expired. Trustee Larry Elovich died in September.

LIPA's planned executive session board meeting, which will not be open to the public, will also delve into the numerous investigations LIPA faces, including a wide-ranging subpoena from the state attorney general and a Moreland Commission that will look at utilities' effectiveness in restoring power.

LIPA Trustee Neal Lewis said the board will discuss questions about the future of LIPA that could arise from the probes. "To me all the work LIPA and the board have done is at risk, and I'm very concerned," he said. "We're going to defend LIPA in that review. There were mistakes, but there is also a lot of good LIPA does."

Getting new members to join the board has also been a challenge. "I have heard people who were asked to join the board said 'No thank you,' " Lewis said. "The Senate has had some difficulty finding people to do it."

It's not just the latest round of investigations and audits that LIPA has undergone or faces anew. Lewis said work on the board can present "significant time demands and responsibilities."

"Vacancy issues are a concern," he said. "We need eight trustees to conduct business."

If attendance or resignations push the number of trustees below eight, there is no quorum and the board can't vote.

A person close to LIPA's board said it may be more difficult than ever to attract new members. "The atmosphere is fairly toxic," this person said. "It will be much harder to get people who want to serve."

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has named one trustee since taking office. The terms of three trustees have expired, including chairman Steinberg's. They continue to serve until a new appointment is made.

A spokesman for Cuomo Thursday didn't have a comment on the trustee topic.

But a person in the governor's office confirmed that a larger contingent of state officials had been engaged with LIPA during and after the hurricane.

Public Service Commission chairman Garry Brown was assigned by Cuomo to monitor and advise the authority. Gil Quinones, the chief executive of the New York Power Authority, also played a role at LIPA, helping to recruit crews for restoration and secure fuel. Staff affiliated with both agencies were also on hand, sources said.

And Howard Glaser, director of state operations for Cuomo, was on hand touring devastated areas and "reviewing outage maps," among other things, the state source said.

Cuomo has repeatedly blasted LIPA and its contractor, National Grid, for "failures" during the storm.

A state official said the PSC and NYPA presence were "routine." In all significant storm emergencies, PSC and NYPA personnel are deployed to utilities -- PSC has a monitoring function, and NYPA provides technical support, he said.

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