Chicago Tribune 11-25-1999 (Power Outage)

Chicago Tribune 11-25-1999 (Power Outage)

5 more ComEd execs lose jobs

Outages of last summer still dimming careers

By Sallie L. Gaines
Tribune Staff Writer

Continued fallout from last summer’s power outages cost five more Commonwealth Edison Co. executives their jobs this week.

The five, all of whom worked in the utility’s troubled transmission and distribution operations, were asked to resign on Monday, said company spokesman Steven Solomon. “This is really part of the reorganization of our transmission and distribution group,” Solomon said.

That reorganization was spurred by back-to-back summer blackouts that had ComEd executives piling apology upon apology while Mayor Richard M. Daley and more than 100,000 households fumed. Those blackouts also prompted an intense soul-searching within ComEd and its parent, Unicom Corp., that ultimately led to the latest wave of firings.

ComEd identified the executives fired Monday as Susan Forinto, distribution dispatch business planning manager; Greg Welch, vice president of technical service; Paul Myrda, bulk-power asset manager; Mike Hervey, substation manager; and Bob Millard, transmission and distribution planning manager.

Heads began rolling almost immediately after the summer blackouts. First to lose his job was 27-year ComEd veteran Paul McCoy, a senior vice president who headed the utility’s transmission and distribution operations. He was asked to resign on Aug. 13, just a day after a power blackout closed down a large part of the Loop.

At the end of July, more than 100,000 city and suburban households were left without power when a heat wave created record demand for electricity to run air conditioners. Overloaded cables and transformers failed.

David Helwig, an executive in ComEd’s nuclear group, was named to succeed McCoy with explicit instructions to end the need to apologize and fix the system.

On Sept. 1, William Hergeden, vice president of engineering, construction and maintenance, resigned. He has been at the utility for 23 years.

ComEd delivered an 800-page report to the city and the Illinois Commerce Commission on Sept. 15, detailing how power lines and transformers had been allowed to deteriorate and lines of responsibility to become so blurred that “it was not always clear who was responsible.”

Solomon said that in making that report, “we promised there would be additional changes.” As part of those changes, “we asked these five individuals to resign.”

He would not discuss specifics about any of the executives or say what kind of severance they may have received.

But he did suggest that firings may be over – at least in the transmission and distribution group. He noted that ComEd recently hired Ronald E. Talbot to head distribution operations for the city, and promoted Carl L. Segneri to the same job with responsibility for the rest of the utility’s service territory. Talbot had been with Consolidated Edison Inc. in New York.

Both report to Carl Croskey, who “feels very comfortable with the management group we now have in place,” Solomon said.

Separately, Unicom said Wednesday it had filed the necessary paperwork with the Illinois Commerce Commission to go forward with its planned merger with Peco Energy Co. of Philadelphia.

Illinois law requires utilities to give at least 30 days notice of such a deal. The companies have said they want to complete the merger by year’s end.

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