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DeRiggi-Whitton: 'Hostility' From LIPA Pre-Sandy

Legislator says her public questioning of company's preparedness was answered with harsh rebuke by LIPA official.

DeRiggi-Whitton: 'Hostility' From LIPA Pre-Sandy

After Tropical Storm Irene left many in her district without power for days, Legis. Delia DeRiggi-Whitton had a series of meetings with Long Island Power Authority officials to examine how to prevent future failures.

The company's communications were a major focus, with a lack of coordination with Department of Public Works crews slowing power restoration and local government officials complaining that the company was inaccessible during and after Irene.

With the same criticisms leveled in the weeks since Sandy, DeRiggi-Whitton suggested the failures were as much an attitude problem as a lack of preparedness.

"The head of [LIPA's] Government and Community Relations, Tracy Burgess-Levy, called my office and chastised my staff about the fact that I was questioning LIPA’s storm readiness," the legislator said. "She assured my office definitively that LIPA had made major changes and that the failures of Irene were well behind them."

The power company did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

DeRiggi-Whitton said local mayors and other officials reported they had to circumvent management and work directly with LIPA crews, avoiding the very people whose role it was to ensure efficiency.

She said she and her staff spent hours immersing themselves in LIPA's restoration process. She pointed to a breakdown of management, evidenced by chief operating officer Michael Hervey's resignation, as a primary reason for the sub-par response.

An improvement, she said, would be some official oversight of the company's capabilities and policies.

"We were happy to get involved to help constituents, but I and all the mayors and other officials shouldn’t have had to chip in and help with LIPA’s job. That is why I have been suggesting that local officials could have some oversight or feedback regarding the power provider here," DeRiggi-Whitton said. "If we had to get involved at the micro level to get our residents’ lights back on, I think we have something to say now about who provides our power and how they do it."

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