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Butler Resigns Amid Storm Reviews, Criticism

by Christine Stuart | Nov 17, 2011 3:11pm
(4) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Weather

Christine Stuart file photo

Jeffrey Butler

(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.

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(4) Comments

posted by: ... | November 17, 2011  3:30pm

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The pressure and negativity was surely too much for Butler. Now he’ll get to (mostly) relax on his still well to do salary and earnings while the buck moves up to Shivery and (more importantly) CL&P and NU.

posted by: newview | November 17, 2011  5:25pm

Ah yes…when Dannel is off in Afghanistan.  Who is going to fall for this one…wait for it…Dannel will come home a decorated loudspeaker, and much to his pleasure, Butler will be gone, yet, have nothing to do with Butler’s untimely demise…yeah right…welcome home Guv.  Anyone who thinks Malloy had nothing to do with this…will wake up at some point.  The politics of power…the power of politics… pretty cozy stuff really!  I urge CT to wake up!

posted by: Noteworthy | November 17, 2011  6:50pm

Alloy’s alleged comments and heavy hand having system to do with Butler’s leaving is patently absurd. Pointless juvey bluster that has more to do with his own unpreparedness and poor performance. When Malloy can tell the truth about the budget and negotiate effectively with the unions I will believe his macho yak yak. Until then….not a chance. By the way how in he’ll could our own emergency preparedness people with all that money perform so poorly?

posted by: ALD | November 17, 2011  10:13pm

Bulter, and CL&P, clearly were less than perfect in the face of an historic storm.

They however made the huge mistake of letting an incompetent Governor force them into over promising to overcome the impossible.

Meanwhile, an incompetent Malloy insulted all our intelligence’s by claiming had he been governor the last four years he would have already cut down the trees that took down these power lines.  I guess he was trying to blame Rell for this mess?  He’s been governor now almost a full year, is he waiting for another historic storm to do the job he said he would have already done?

Malloy’s empty promises of GAAP, and shared sacrifice, only teach us all more about his over promising…. If Malloy were half as honest man as Butler, he would follow Butler’s lead and resign.  He’s clearly not ready for a real job.