Four top Con Edison executives have returned $614,400 in bonuses after Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for an investigation into why they were rewarded while the state’s utilities are being probed for what he has called a woeful performance during Superstorm Sandy.
In a letter to the company Monday, Cuomo said he has asked state regulators to look into the payments to Con Ed Chairman and CEO Kevin Burke and the others and warned that ratepayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill for the bonuses.
The bonuses were granted for guiding the company through “significant challenges in 2012,” including Sandy, other bad weather and a strike, a proxy statement for Con Ed’s annual meeting said.
“These bonuses come at a particularly sensitive time,” Cuomo wrote, noting it has been just six months since New Yorkers “witnessed a complete failure by many of our state’s utilities to provide adequate service.”
Burke said in a statement later Monday that “after careful consideration,” he was returning the $314,000 he was awarded. He said the bonus would have been funded by shareholders, not ratepayers.
The other executives also returned their bonuses, Con Ed spokesman Chris Olert said Tuesday. They are: chief financial officer Robert Hoglund, who was paid $82,900; Con Edison of New York president Craig Ivey, $146,100; and general counsel Elizabeth Moore, $70,000.
Spokesman Michael Clendenin said the utility was concerned the criticism could be a distraction as Con Ed works with regulators on a plan to spend $1 billion over the next four years to bolster its infrastructure to protect against damage from a storm like Sandy.
The Oct. 29 superstorm killed more than 100 people in 10 states and knocked out electric service to more than 2 million homes and businesses in New York alone. That included about a million Con Ed customers in New York City and Westchester County. Customers across the region that included hard-hit Long Island complained about the time it took to get service restored and lack of communication from the utilities. Public officials said the utilities were poorly prepared for the storm and managed it badly.
But Con Ed’s executives got off easy compared with officials at the Long Island Power Authority — who were forced by Cuomo to resign following the storm.