Judge tosses lawsuit over LIPA trustee election issues

08/21/2012 10:00 AM |

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Greg Fischer speaks at a Suffolk 9-12 meeting last year, when he was running for Riverhead Town Supervisor.

A lawsuit seeking to force the Long Island Power Authority to have elected trustees didn’t get far, as state Supreme Court Justice Jerry Garguilo dismissed the case just days after hearing it.

Calverton resident Greg Fischer and two other men, Bill Jurow, a Mastic Beach attorney, and Roger Scott Lewis, who is a Democratic committee member in Southampton Town, brought the suit against the Board of Elections in Suffolk County, Nassau County and New York State on the grounds that LIPA trustees should be elected, not appointed, as they are currently.

While trustees were originally meant to be elected when the state created LIPA to take over for the Long Island Lighting Company, the state, during the administration of former governor George Pataki changed the state’s public authorities law to make the positions appointed. However, the language in the state’s election law still refers to LIPA trustees as being elected.

Mr. Fischer, M. Lewis and Mr. Jurow also filed petitions with the elections boards seeking to be placed on the ballot to run for LIPA trustee seats, as stated in election law, even though there currently is no such election.

But Judge Garguilo, in his decision, quoted a section of public authorities law that states: “In so far as the provisions of this title are inconsistent with provisions of any other law or part thereof, the provisions of this title shall be controlling.”

He also quoted a section of the election law that states, “inconsistent provisions of other state laws are controlling absent an express provision in the Election Law to the contrary.”

He said the three men were unable to point to such a provision.

“In applying the appropriate statutory law, it is clear to the court that the LIPA trustees are appointed, not elected,” Judge Garguilo wrote.

Mr. Fischer said he will be appealing the ruling, and says the court missed the real problem with LIPA.

“We need both elected oversight and competition,” he said.

He has said that he doesn’t expect to win the lawsuit, but is filing it in an attempt to raise attention to the issue.

Governor Andrew Cuomo and other officials have recently called for reforms at LIPA, and South Fork state Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) has tried, unsuccessfully, to get the state Legislature to approve a bill making LIPA trustee an elected position.

Mr. Thiele this month has submitted a new bill that would make changes at LIPA, including making the trustee positions elected.

“I envision true reform as a LIPA that is controlled by Long Islanders and that has real authority to pursue renewable energy sources, energy conservation, and lower utility rates,” Mr. Thiele said in a release. “A key part of such reform must include an elected Board of Trustees.”

tgannon@timesreview.com