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Puerto Rico Utility Board Resigns

Five of the seven members of the Puerto Rico utility board resigned yesterday amid a huge restructuring following the severe damage the country suffered from Hurricane Maria, Reuters reports, adding that the members who handed in their resignations also included the authority’s chief executive, who hadn’t even officially taken office yet.

The resignations come in response to the Puerto Rico governor’s hostile reaction to the CEO’s proposed compensation package. The utility board agreed to pay Rafael Diaz-Granados US$750,000 annually, which sparked the anger of Governor Ricardo Rosello, who told the board to either lower the sum or resign.

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For context, the US$750,000 package compares with a base salary of US$450,000, which was what the previous utility board CEO, Walter Higgins, would have received (aside from bonuses) if he had stayed at the helm for a year. Instead, he resigned after just four months on the job.

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Last September, Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on the island, leaving 1.5 million households and businesses without power. Since then, the utility board, PREPA, has had four chief executives as it grapples not just with a ruined grid but with the fallout from the crisis of faith that resulted from the hurricane devastation that revealed the grid had been mismanaged for years.

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The PREPA members who handed in their resignations cited as reason the fact they did not believe they could count on support for some “politically unpopular” measures that needed to be taken as part of the restructuring process.

“It will be difficult to carry that company without a strong board and strong CEO - to effectively run that company separate from government influence - that is the main factor in trying to transform PREPA,” the chairman of the authority told Reuters, adding that now the governor will be able to appoint members who will be “more in tone with his agenda.”

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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