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More power company officials resign after slow Sandy response

November 27, 2012|By Tina Susman
  • A Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) truck is seen in the Belle Harbor neighborhood of the borough of Queens, New York, in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
A Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) truck is seen in the Belle Harbor neighborhood… (Craig Ruttle / Associated…)

NEW YORK -- Two more executives have resigned from the Long Island Power Authority, which came under withering criticism from New York's governor for its failure to restore power more quickly to hundreds of thousands of customers after Superstorm Sandy.  

The departures announced Monday followed the resignation of the state-owned utility's chief operating officer, Mike Hervey, who had also been serving as the agency's chief executive. Hervey's departure, announced Nov. 13, takes effect at the end of the year.

Now also resigning are Bruce Germano, the power authority's vice president of customer service, and X. Cristofer Damianos, who was a five-year member of the authority's state-appointed board of directors.

The announcements of their exits did not link the moves to the anger that followed Sandy, when people who rely on the utility for power -- residents of Long Island and the Rockaway peninsula of Queens -- complained that they could not get anyone at the power authority to tell them when electricity might be restored.

Germano said he decided to leave for "a purely personal reason," Newsday reported. The power authority said Damianos was leaving to spend more time on his real estate business.

The criticism of the utility, which has more than 1.1 million customers, came to a head this month when Gov. Andrew Cuomo accused it of failing to adequately prepare for Sandy, which hit the area Oct. 29 after days of forecasters' dire warnings of a rare "superstorm." Cuomo said the utility had held onto an antiquated infrastructure and an outdated computer system. Nearly two weeks after the storm, more than 200,000 of the utility's customers remained without power.

At one point, more than 8 million people were in the dark in several states after Sandy, but the Long Island utility has been slower than other utility companies to restore power. In news briefings in the days following Sandy, Long Island Power Authority officials and the utility's website said workers were doing the best they could under dangerous conditions that included high floodwaters and downed trees. The problems were made worse by a powerful northeaster that dumped snow on the region Nov. 8.

Officials of the power company also admitted that it was in the midst of replacing its computer system, which slowed the response to customers trying to find out when their electricity would come back.

"They failed. They should be held accountable," said Cuomo, who has created a commission to investigate state utilities' response to Sandy. Some customers have also filed a class-action lawsuit against the utility.

On its website Tuesday, the power authority said it had restored service to all customers affected by Sandy who could safely have their power turned back on. But thousands remain without power in areas where flooding and other property damage require building inspectors to certify structures as safe before power can be restored.

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tina.susman@latimes.com

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