New interim Long Island Power Authority chief executive John Rhodes.

New interim Long Island Power Authority chief executive John Rhodes. Credit: Newsday/Mark Harrington

The former chairman of the state’s top utility watchdog nearly doubled his most recent state salary in taking the top job at LIPA as the authority arrives at a critical juncture in its nearly three-decade history. 

John Rhodes, 67, who was once chairman of the state Public Service Commission and chief of its administrative arm, the Department of Public Service, will make $365,000 in his new role as interim chief executive, LIPA confirmed.

It's Rhodes' first time running a utility after more than seven years as a state energy regulator and administrator, including at the Department of Public Service, which has “review and recommend” authority over LIPA. His most recent state salary was $185,400 in 2023 in his role as chief of programs for DPS.

Rhodes’ salary is the same as former chief executive Tom Falcone made after a decade at the utility, including periods when Falcone acted concurrently as chief financial officer. Falcone resigned last month following Gov. Kathy Hochul’s installation of four new board members, including Tracey Edwards, who previously worked with Rhodes as a PSC commissioner.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • The new interim chief executive at LIPA, John Rhodes, will be paid $365,000.
  • It will be Rhodes’ first time running a utility. He is a former chairman of the state Public Service Commission.
  • Rhodes hasn’t yet decided whether he’ll move to Long Island, he told Newsday, as LIPA conducts a national search for a full-time CEO.

Rhodes last month told Newsday he hasn’t yet decided whether he’ll move to Long Island as the authority conducts a national search for a full-time CEO.

The state DPS under Rhodes had recommended that LIPA consider suing PSEG over its contract following Tropical Storm Isaias in 2020 and seeking a new contractor. LIPA later sued PSEG and it resulted in a settlement that included a new contract with more pay at risk and a cash payment.

Rhodes, who also served as a top official at the state Energy Research and Development Authority, joins the Long Island Power Authority as the utility faces the potential of a new contractor to run the electric grid as PSEG’s contract expires at the end of 2025.

LIPA was preparing to put the contract out to bid when Falcone resigned last month. Falcone had been long critical of PSEG during LIPA board meetings seeking greater performance from the New Jersey contractor. Edwards, LIPA's chairwoman, last month called PSEG’s customer call center performance “horrible.

A state audit of the utility recently found a series of performance and other shortfalls by PSEG, including a lagging computer-system migration to Long Island from New Jersey. Failure to fully separate the systems could make LIPA a less attractive prospect for other potential bidders to take over management of the LIPA grid — a nearly $80 million-a-year contract in a unique public-private arrangement that PSEG says is best for ratepayers.

While Rhodes’ pay at LIPA is a big jump from his former PSC pay, other top Long Island utility officials are making more.

In a 2023 disclosure required under state law, top PSEG Long Island executives and their total compensation included that of interim president, Dave Lyons, at $699,779; Paul Napoli, managing director of power markets, at $683,905; Gregory Filipowski, a managing director and chief information officer, at $667,348; Andrea Elder-Howell, managing director of legal, at $415,358; Michael Sullivan, managing director of electric operations, at $564,179; Louis Debrino, managing director of customer operations, at $442,208; and Margaret Keane, managing director of construction, at $642,428.

State Assemb. Fred Thiele Jr. (D-Sag Harbor), who authored legislation to make LIPA fully public, said he was “not concerned as much by the salary that Rhodes is being paid as I am about the process by which he was selected and what it might mean for the direction of the authority.” 

Separately, Thiele charged PSEG “continues to completely flout the letter and spirit of the law,” regarding pay disclosure, “regardless of how often they are questioned on it.

“The complete failure to comply would be reason to disqualify them from any future contract with LIPA,” Thiele said. “It is a total lack of transparency and a failure to meet the intent of the state legislation.”

Katy Tatzel, a spokeswoman for PSEG Long Island, said the company “fully complies with the laws and policies that require disclosure of our executives salaries.”

All of LIPA’s employees’ salaries are publicly reported on the state salary site.

With Arielle Martinez

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