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LIPA COO Says Sandy Firestorm Had Nothing To Do With Decision To Step Down

Michael Hervey (credit: Mona Rivera/1010 WINS)

Michael Hervey (credit: Mona Rivera/1010 WINS)

Superstorm Sandy

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Long Island Power Authority’s chief operating officer said he’s been looking to leave the company for months and that his resignation had nothing to do with the utility’s heavily criticized response to Superstorm Sandy.

LIPA announced Tuesday that Michael Hervey had tendered his resignation and would be leaving his post at the end of the year after spending 12 years with the company.

1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reports

But Hervey, who was appointed acting chief in August of 2010, said Wednesday that he began to consider stepping down over the summer when he realized he would never get the full title.

“I think that’s primary in my decision-making. It became obvious to me at some point that I was not going to be chosen for that slot, so my opportunities here were limited,” he told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera. “The job is to take the heat and to run the company, and I’m not dodging that at all in any way, but at some point in a career, you need to move on.”

Hervey defended LIPA’s response to the storm, calling it “unprecedented.” Sandy knocked out power to more than 1 million LIPA customers.

“This was a catastrophic storm,” he told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan. “This was bigger damage than what we would anticipate for a Category 1 or possibly a Category 2 hurricane. It was because of the very long duration of the storm beating on all of Long Island for almost a day.”

While the company said it has now met its goal of restoring service to 99 percent of those who lost power during the storm, tens of thousands of customers were left in the dark for more than two weeks.

Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy said Tuesday that two weeks without power “is simply unacceptable.”

“While LIPA’s linemen and other field workers have worked hard during the recovery from Hurricane Sandy, the agency has shown a breathtaking lack of organization, preparedness and communication in ways that can only be held accountable at the highest levels of the agency,” she said in a statement. “We need to reorganize LIPA and modernize Long Island’s energy grid into one resilient and smart enough to bounce back from major storms much faster.”

The announcement that Hervey would be stepping down came hours after Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered an investigation into how utility companies prepared for and reacted to the storm.

“From Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee, to Hurricane Sandy, over the past two years New York has experienced some of the worst natural disasters in our state’s history,” Cuomo said. “As we adjust to the reality of more frequent major weather incidents, we must study and learn from these past experiences to prepare for the future.”

But Hervey said Wednesday that Cuomo had nothing to do with his decision to leave LIPA.

“He absolutely did not ask me to resign,” Hervey said.

The COO did agree that all utilities need to be better prepared for future weather events.

“Especially in a time of changing weather patterns, the right thing is to step back and look at how it all works,” he said.

WCBS 880’s Mike Xirinachs reports

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said he welcomes an investigation into the power companies.

“The magnitude of the problem with this utility goes well beyond the COO and I join with Gov. Cuomo in supporting a full investigation so this disservice to our residents never occurs again in Nassau County,” he said in a statement.

Officials in both Nassau and Suffolk County said more needs to be done to prevent these kind of prolonged outages from happening again.

There were still about 35,000 customers with flood and equipment damage who were still in the dark on Long Island on Wednesday night.

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