New interim LIPA Chief Executive John Rhodes.

New interim LIPA Chief Executive John Rhodes. Credit: Newsday

LIPA trustees on Wednesday approved the appointment of John Rhodes, a former chairman of the Public Service Commission and chief of the state Energy Research and Development Authority, as interim chief executive.

The nine-member board voted 6-1 in favor of naming Rhodes interim CEO, with two board members, Laureen Harris and Dominick Macchia, abstaining.

The opposing vote came from trustee Drew Biondo, who took issue with the timing of the appointment, saying he’d not been briefed on Rhodes’ qualifications.

“This fell out of the sky, overnight and I think it’s a bit presumptuous of whoever appointed him — I understand it was the governor — to assume that because you make a recommendation, that we are going to rubber stamp it,” Biondo said. “At least I am not.”

WHAT TO KNOW

  • LIPA trustees on Wednesday approved the appointment of John Rhodes as interim chief executive.
  • Rhodes is a former chairman of the state Public Service Commission and chief of the state Energy Research and Development Authority.
  • The move follows the announced resignation of LIPA Chief Executive Tom Falcone, effective at the end of May.

The move follows by a week the announced resignation of Long Island Power Authority Chief Executive Tom Falcone, who had said his resignation was effective at the end of May. LIPA this week also announced Mujib Lodhi, the chief operating officer, also will depart.

LIPA will be conducting a national search for a chief executive, one expected to take months, but could face fallout from the abrupt departures of top executives and managers who were loyal to Falcone. 

Rhodes, 67, who works for the Department of Public Service, the administrative arm of the state Public Service Commission, was a special assistant to the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy in August 2022. He also had been chairman and chief executive of the PSC and DPS. DPS has a level of oversight of LIPA, with “review and recommend” authority. 

In a brief interview at the trustees meeting, Rhodes, who as interim CEO will not face Senate confirmation, said he was “not sure yet” whether he would be moving to Long Island.

Addressing trustees at the end of the meeting, Rhodes pointed to his long track record as a "public service fellow" and said, "I am new here (at LIPA) but I know your work ... I'm excited to join the work in this interim role."

Rhodes also was chair and CEO of NYSERDA, the state agency that administers and advocates for green energy programs and sources. He’d previously worked for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group.

One observer who has been pushing for change at LIPA expressed disappointment at Rhodes' appointment. 

“Recycling the same bureaucrats through the same broken third-party management structure is not the change that LIPA needs,” Assemb. Fred Thiele (D-Sag Harbor) said. 

Rhodes comes to LIPA at a time of tumult, as a state legislative plan for a fully public LIPA is stalled after years of lobbying by PSEG and other groups against it. PSEG’s contract with LIPA expires at the end of 2025, and LIPA must either take over the utility itself, find another contractor or extend PSEG’s contract.

Gov. Kathy Hochul last fall installed four new board members, including chairwoman Tracey Edwards, who to date has turned much of her critical focus on LIPA. Edwards was a former PSC commissioner at the same time Rhodes was leading the agency.

In a presentation during the public comment period of the board meeting, former LIPA board member Peter Gollon, who praised Falcone, took issue with  changes in the “tone” of board meetings in recent months under Hochul's recent board appointment. 

“Staff have been publicly interrogated and demeaned, and shouting matches have occurred between board members,” Gollon said, adding that tone was “contrary to LIPA values,” and would likely contribute to further staff departures.

“A return to poor, or inefficient performance by a service provider will be a reversal of the progress made in the last decade to better serve LIPA’s customers,” Gollon said. “That will again leave Long Island with a broken utility, a throwback to 20 years ago.”

Gollon ended by telling Edwards, and Hochul, that “accountability” for the future of the electric utility now rests with them, and added, “If you break it, you own it.”

PSEG received upward of $80 million a year to provide about 20 executives to manage the grid, in addition to other services contracts that bring it more than $100 million. PSEG says the current method of contracting out the grid to a third part has worked best for LIPA ratepayers and should be maintained.

Thiele disagreed. “The obsession with maintaining a failed status quo may serve special interests but not the public,” he said Wednesday morning. “This is just another backroom decision that demonstrates what happens when Long Islanders are not permitted to run their own electric utility.” 

A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports. Credit: Newsday Staff

'Why am I giving up my Friday night to listen to this?' A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports.

A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports. Credit: Newsday Staff

'Why am I giving up my Friday night to listen to this?' A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports.

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