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LIPA policy on public remarks by board members targeted by state lawmaker

Assemblyman Steven Englebright speaks at The Unitarian Universalist

Assemblyman Steven Englebright speaks at The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Huntington Earth Day event Saturday, April 21, 2018. Credit: David L. Pokress

A state legislator is drafting legislation that would roll back a Long Island Power Authority communications policy that “encourages” LIPA board members to notify authority officials before they speak to the news media or the public.

Assemb. Steven Englebright (D-Setauket) said his planned bill stemmed from concern that board members were being treated “as if they were paid employees, working for the company.”

Said Englebright: “If you cut off communication by suppressing or intimidating people who graciously serve and give their own time you’re really just shortchanging the public.”

LIPA’s board approved the policy in 2016. In addition to encouraging board members to clear their contacts with the press and the public, board members critical of LIPA were advised they “should” make clear they were speaking on their own behalf, not the authority’s.

Only one board member, Matthew Cordaro, an appointee of the state Assembly, voted against the policy at the time. Eight others, including five board appointees of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, signed a letter of support and voted for it. 

LIPA chairman Ralph Suozzi said trustees are “encouraged to speak to utility officials” before talking to customers or the media “to receive the facts to assure the information they are sharing is accurate.”

He said that since the vote, “no trustee voiced a concern or a complaint on this common sense policy and we see no reason to alter the policy at this time.”

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