Kessel: Dangerous During the Paterson Interregnum
Oddly, the dangers that Richie Kessel poses to the state’s economy, especially upstate, and electric consumers, both wholesale and retail, are heightened by Governor Paterson’s new position looking up from under the Obama bus. Paterson, our accidental Governor, is now a lame duck a full fifteen months before his successor takes office. As a result, Paterson’s leverage has dissipated and as his lackluster, lackadaisical administration winds down, career pols like lame duck Kessel, suddenly faced with both a lack of adult supervision from the Governor’s office and wary of being back in the political wilderness in the new Administration, (whoever is the next governor of our troubled state, will find it hard to justify keeping a political operator like Kessel in a reform government) will reward favored friends and lobbyists and enhancing their “legacies.” Someone like Kessel who is seemingly unconcerned with state finances or the long-term consequences of their actions and focused solely on what fills his narcisstic impulse will commit NYPA and state taxpayers and ratepayers in ways that cause long-term harm and cost.
Observers of Richie at LIPA will remember his fevered pitch of activity in the last two years of the Pataki Administration. Kessel pushed on the tremendously expensive wind mill project off Jones Beach, fudged about its true cost and forced Newsday to do a FOIL request for the actual cost data. It was only the commonsense of his LIPA successor that led to a serious analysis of the costs and a decision to abandon Kessel’s folly.
It was also during the Pataki lame duck period that Kessel skirted state law by serving as both Chairman and CEO of LIPA. Cleared by the state IG who found that Kessel was properly paid—not the real issue—Kessel ran amok bestowing favors on the politically connected.
NYPA now faces the same fate. Just as in Tudor times, the period between kings (in this case, Governors) is a hazardous one for princes and common men alike. Upstate electric users should fear the consequences of more Kessel giveaways made while Paterson and his weak staff polish their resumes.