LIPA COO Michael Hervey Resigns, Utility Company Sued Over Slow Hurricane Sandy Response

Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) chief operating officer Michael Hervey resigned from his position Tuesday evening. He had been with the company since 2010.

Hervey said he had planned to step down for months, but his decision came the same day that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he would form a special state commission to investigate LIPA’s slow response to Hurricane Sandy.

In his letter of resignation, Hervey offered to leave the company on Thursday. He said he had spoken with lawyers and trustees and was persuaded to stay through the end of the year.

Hervey said, “The company had changed and was changing over time. I was in the interim position as acting CEO and COO for the past two years plus, and it seemed like I didn’t have further opportunities here.”

LIPA has been heavily criticized for its response to Hurricane Sandy, and was under increasing pressure from Gov. Cuomo. The state commission he formed would have subpoena power to investigate utility companies’ “response, preparation, and management” of major storms.

The commission will also recommend ways to change what Cuomo’s administration called the “overlapping responsibilities and missions” of the state’s regulators and energy providers. This includes LIPA, the New York Power Authority, and the Public Service Commission.

Hervey said he wanted to get back with the legislature at the beginning of next year to incorporate the commission’s recommendations and devise a better system.

While more than 1.1. million customers have had their service restored in the weeks since Sandy, there are still over 10,000 customers without power on Long Island. Officials said the remaining power outages are caused mostly by the risk of returning electricity to flooded buildings with damaged infrastructure.

LIPA and National Grid, the UK-based firm whose US arm operates the utility company, are being sued over their response to the storm. Two customers are accusing the company of failing to provide electric services because of its “disregard” in management and maintenance of equipment, personnel, and facilities, as well as its “failure to replace an outdated, obsolete outage management system which lacks the ability to manage large-scale outages.”

The complaint was filed in New York State Supreme Court in Nassau County.

Karen Young, a spokeswoman for National Grid, said:

“We are aware of the lawsuit, however our focus continues to be on those most affected by the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. We continue to work with local officials and relief agencies to provide ongoing support to those communities and to be there for our customers.”

The lawsuit against LIPA and National Grid claims negligence is seeking class-action status. Attorney Kenneth Mollins said he is seeking unspecified damages.