New York Power Authority chairman steps down

NEW YORK STATE - The chairman of the State Power Authority is resigning unexpectedly with two years left on his term.

The departure of Frank S. McCullough Jr., coupled with the forced resignation of Roger Kelley, the authorityÂ’s chief executive officer, creates a leadership void that Gov. David A. Paterson will play a large role in filling. Kelley, like McCullough, will leave office July 31.

McCullough did not return a phone call seeking comment.

McCullough is the authorityÂ’s most senior board member, having served for 11 years after his appointment by then- Gov. George E. Pataki. HeÂ’s been chairman for two years, earning $90,800 annually, and served the previous four years as vice chairman. Michael Townsend, a board member from Rochester, will succeed McCullough as interim chairman.

McCullough practices law in White Plains. In his communication to staff explaining his departure, McCullough said he wanted to devote more time to his practice. He is serving his third term, which extended to May 6, 2010.

His departure will allow Paterson to consolidate control of the authority, whose governing board has continued to be controlled by Pataki appointees. Two of those appointees are slated to be replaced once the State Senate acts on the nominations of Jonathan Foster, from New York City, and Eugene Nicandri, from Massena.

The GOP-controlled State Senate must confirm the nominees, and theyÂ’ll go through the Energy Committee, headed by State Sen. George D. Maziarz, RNewfane. Maziarz could not be reached to comment, but in the past, he has expressed a strong interest in increasing Western New YorkÂ’s voice on the authority board. McCulloughÂ’s resignation may give Maziarz leverage in pressing his case with the governor.

The region has two representatives on the board, Elise Cusack, whose term will expire next year, and D. Patrick Curley, who took office last fall. Cusack, a Republican with ties to outgoing Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, R-Clarence, is not expected to be reappointed.

But replacing Kelley is a more immediate concern.

Numerous press reports the past month have focused on Richard Kessel, former chairman and chief executive officer of the Long Island Power Authority, as a possible successor. Newsday characterized Kessel’s tenure as “replete with ups and downs, including... sharp criticism of the authority’s spending and disclosure policies.”

Earlier, the state inspector general cleared Kessel of any wrongdoing for collecting a paycheck as chairman of the Long Island Power Authority in 2006 after a reform bill took effect. Kessel had been both chairman and chief executive, but when forced to drop the chief executive job, continued as chairman earning the same $204,932 he had previously earned as chief executive. Chairmen typically served without pay.

Investigators absolved Kessel because they said he continued to collect his pay at the advice of Pataki administration officials and two lawyers. The inspector general’s report nevertheless found aspects of the episode “troubling.”

Also, Newsday published an investigation into a failed $21 million fuel cell project started under Kessel’s tenure at the authority. An editorial said Kessel “had an instinct for risk-taking and the bold idea, but little inclination for fiscal discipline.”

Another possible candidate to succeed Kelley is Gil C. Quiniones, the authorityÂ’s executive vice president of energy marketing and corporate affairs. He is regarded as an up-and-comer in the organization, which he joined last year.

Quiniones was appointed as acting chief operating officer shortly after Kelley announced his resignation. Quiniones would function as interim chief executive until a permanent successor is elected. The last person to hold the title of chief operating officer was Timothy Carey, several months before before he was appointed authority chief executive in January 2006.


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