Wednesday, April 5, 2017

What?!?

It wasn't that long ago when I went for days or weeks even, without reading of or thinking about Norwich Public Utilities, NPU. I'm a customer of all their services and use each of them to varying degrees every day but I never gave them a first, much less a second, thought.

I could (and often did) sit in my living room and watch television newscasts filled with reports from around the state about power outages and damages caused by storms (of any and all kinds) and never bat an eye or wonder why those things didn't seem to happen too often here in my neck of the woods.

Meanwhile, the one hundred and fifty or so NPU employees did (and still do) all the jobs, large and small, that have to be done every day to provide the utilities we all rely on. Like Jeff who came out to the house Saturday afternoon to lead the repairs after wind and rain had weakened the insulation on a power line.

These days NPU is the talk of the town (and an item of interest among state lawmakers in Hartford as well) because some of the NPU leadership team including the General Manager and two (of the five) Commissioners, the Chairwoman and Vice-Chairman, were part of a forty-person entourage who spent a luxurious weekend last May at the Kentucky Derby in what we now call Derbygate.

Search online for "Derbygate" as I did with Google and you'll have "about 338,000 results in .48 seconds." Almost as many results as dollars that were reportedly spent for the trip. That's pretty impressive, especially for a situation first reported by Ryan Blessing in The Bulletin less than six months ago.

In re-reading that story, about the only silver lining I saw (and I had to squint really, really hard to see it) were quotes attributed to then NPU Commissioner Larry Goldman, 'I’ve been trying to find out who’s paying and why certain people are going,' he said...'and it shouldn’t be that ... lavish. '"

Follow-up stories revealed Derbygate was neither a solitary nor an isolated event. Each subsequent report was greeted with growing-angrier-by-the-minute public reaction. A lot of damage to the reputation of NPU and, by extension everyone on the NPU team, has been inflicted by a very small number of people who, I believe, should have known better and most definitely could have behaved better.

Mr. Goldman became a former NPU Commissioner March 20 when the City Council, on a motion made by Mr. Nystrom and seconded by Ms. Gould who both expressed disappointment Goldman had not spoken up sooner about NPU trips and spending, voted 6-1 to replace him with Mr. Peil. Only Alderman Braddock voted in opposition.

A week and a day after the City Council replaced the disappointing Mr. Goldman, the NPU Board of Commissioners at their next meeting, re-elected both Ms. Boisclair and Mr. Groner to their leadership positions with Mr. Peil voting with the majority. I guess I'm either surprised I'm not disappointed or I'm disappointed that I'm not surprised.

I have to assume the point of the Council's replacement action was to punish Mr. Goldman rather than to better manage the NPU Board of Commissioners (and its conduct). Again, sometimes the things (some of) our city leaders do speak so loudly I can't hear what they are saying.
-bill kenny


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