Butler Resigns Amid Storm Reviews, Criticism
(Updated 2:47 p.m.) Jeffrey Butler, the president and chief operating officer of Connecticut Light & Power, resigned Thursday amid six reviews of his company’s handling of the freak October snowstorm, and to a lesser degree Tropical Storm Irene.
The announcement was made by CL&P’s parent company, Northeast Utilities, Thursday afternoon along with other management changes in the wake of the two storms, which left more than 830,000 customers in the dark for more than a week.
“We reluctantly accepted Jeff’s resignation,” Charles W. Shivery NU’s president said in a statement. “His commitment and dedication on behalf of our company, employees and customers have been exceptional. We thank him for his important contribution to NU, CL&P and the community. We wish him all the best.”
Butler, who attended countless media briefings, received the brunt of the criticism from citizens and editorial boards left in the dark for close to 12 days in some cases. Butler also drew the ire of town officials upset with the company’s response, which they said was so slow it was endangering the lives of their residents. Someone even set up a “FakeJeffButler“ Twitter account to make fun of the COO at various points throughout the restoration.
Butler, who was also out of power because his generator failed, has been reluctant to talk about the toll the storm took on him personally. He redirected questions about his personal situation at several media briefings.
James A. Muntz, NU president of Transmission, will serve as president and chief operating officer of CL&P until a replacement for Butler can be found. Shivery said a national search will be conducted.
Butler, who had appeared with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy at many of the briefings, soon found himself standing alone at the podium in the Emergency Operations Center fielding questions from reporters. Malloy was quick to distance himself from Butler.
But Butler’s departure may not be enough for Malloy, who has said “I presume we’re going to find some degree of malfeasance that may arise to a recoverable action.”
The governor, who is currently out of the country, has told Shivery that his company’s handling of the situation was “unacceptable.”
“There have been too many problems and its time for him [Shivery] to change the way his operation is being managed,” Malloy said more than a week ago when he described his conversation with Shivery to reporters. Butler told the media that same day that Shivery has been there with him in its emergency operations center in Berlin throughout the storm.
“Gov. Malloy made clear that he thought Northeast Utilities needed to address CL&P’s management issues, and it’s clear that process has begun,” Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s senior communications adviser said in a statement Thursday. “It’s also likely that there will be other changes on other fronts as a result of CL&P’s performance in the lead-up to and aftermath of the storm.”
House Speaker Chris Donovan echoed the sentiment that Butler’s resignation doesn’t mean much.
“CL&P was unprepared for this storm and failed to adequately respond to the needs of Connecticut’s residents and businesses,” Donovan said. “The issue is not one individual, but the company’s ability to respond in an emergency. We need a better and more appropriate response in the future, and we look forward to working with CL&P’s new leadership to achieve that.”
In the statement Thursday, Shivery also announced actions he has taken to enhance CL&P’s emergency preparedness.
The company has retained Davies Consulting, Inc. to perform a thorough evaluation of CL&P’s preparedness and response to recent unprecedented storms. Shivery stated that by the first week of January preliminary findings will be delivered to him and the NU Board of Trustees, with a final report completed in early February.
In addition, Shivery announced the creation of a new CL&P position to lead emergency preparedness, which will be filled by William J. Quinlan, who is currently the vice president of customer solutions.
Shivery, who has not made himself available to the media, also praised the efforts his company made during the storm.
“I am proud of our employees and their hard work in response to these historic storms,” Shivery said. “Today’s changes are major steps to help CL&P and our employees better meet future challenges. There are still things to learn, but with winter coming these were changes I knew we should and could make right now.”
Butler took the position with CL&P in 2009. Butler worked for 27 years at Pacific Gas & Electric before coming to Connecticut. In 2003, he experienced similar criticism for that company’s handling of storm outages in San Francisco.