By MARK HARRINGTON
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration attempted to “strong arm” his first Moreland Commission on public utilities into supporting a “pre-cooked” plan to privatize LIPA, according to a commission member who said he threatened to resign to put a stop to it.
Mark Green, the former New York City Public Advocate, said that during the commission’s early work and its attempt to produce an interim report by January 2013, there was pressure to indicate the full commission supported privatizing LIPA, when at least three of the 10 members weren’t yet prepared to do so.
“I became concerned when Cuomo appointees would call to pressure us to come to conclusions they had already arrived at that just clashed with the governor’s initial declaration that the commission was independent,” Green said yesterday.
Cuomo spokesman Matt Wing said: “The LIPA Moreland Commission was an unquestionable success. It helped prompt legislation that ended LIPA as we know it. Their work speaks for itself and at the end of the day the final model was not privatization but a hybrid with just the operations privatized and run by PSEG.”
Another commission member, former Public Service chairman Peter Bradford, said Friday that while he too was not ready to support the privatization of LIPA in January, 2013, after just four weeks of commission work, he didn’t recall pressure from the governor’s office.
“The difference was between those who felt comfortable recommending privatization and those who felt that it was just too soon” to do so, said Bradford, who chaired the PSC from 1987 to 1995 under former Gov. Mario Cuomo.
The final report ultimately listed three options — privatization, a fully public power company and a hybrid of the two. The latter was recommended by the commission several months later and was the basis for the LIPA Reform Act, which was signed a year ago this month.
Revelations of tension inside the Moreland Commission on utilities followed a report in the New York Times that Cuomo and his aides improperly interfered with the Moreland Commission on public corruption. Cuomo has denied any interference, saying he and his aides were only providing the proper and necessary advice.
On LIPA privatization, Green charged the administration attempted to narrow the conclusions in the interim report so that privatization appear to be the commission’s sole recommendation. “On the deadline of releasing the interim report, they really tried to strong arm people into changing the three options into a proposal for only privatization,” he said.
“There came a point where I had to say that I would have to leave the commission if they continued to, in my view, publicly misrepresent what we were doing,” Green said.
The interim report ultimately said the commission recommended privatization, but a news release accompanying it noted privatization was favored by “a majority” of the commission, suggesting others had not signed on.