Chugach Electric Association hires, then cancels new CEO

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Hal Halpern was supposed to start work as the new chief executive officer at Chugach Electric Association this week, as current CEO Lee Thibert is set to retire at the end of the month after six years on the job.

But suddenly last week, the Chugach Board of Directors canceled the contract with Halpern, without explanation. Word is that it was because a background check didn’t come up with entirely favorable results.

Chugach Electric Association has named Arthur Miller acting CEO, effective immediately, a day after the board said it was “not moving forward with employing Hal Halpern” as the utility’s new CEO. Miller has been with Chugach for nearly 32 years, most recently serving as executive vice president of regulatory and external affairs.

Halpern had signed a three-year contract, which was announced by the association on March 9.

“With over 15 years of C-suite experience, Halpern joins Chugach from Cooperative Light & Power in Minnesota, where he served over three years as CEO. In his new role, Halpern will oversee the development of Chugach’s utility strategies and business growth,” the utility’s board wrote in March.

When Thibert announced his retirement, the board hired a Rochester, N.Y. search firm, JK Executive Strategies, to sort through the more than 100 applications for the position. It was a sole-source contract with a woman-owned company to conduct the executive search. Thibert was originally going to stay on until the end of April, but that appears to have changed with Miller now the acting CEO

Halpern was relocating from Two Harbors, Minn. to Anchorage and is said to have retained a lawyer over the cancellation of his contract.

The screw up over hiring a new CEO comes as Chugach has been absorbing Anchorage’s ML&P in the merger approved by voters, who in 2018 approved selling ML&P to Chugach for $1 billion. The combination of the two utilities was expected to lead to lower long-term rates for all utility ratepayers with an estimated savings of over $200 million over the next 15 years, but Chugach has already asked for a rate increase from the Regulatory Commission of Alaska. It has also canceled that rate increase request, having run into political headwinds.

The hiring blow-up also comes just before board elections. Voting for the board opens April 20, when two candidates will be elected to serve a four-year term on the board. Four of the candidates were selected by the nominating committee and one candidate was approved to run by member petition. More information about the Chugach Electric Association board election is at this link.

Chugach is hosting a candidate forum on Thursday, April 14 at 4 p.m. in the board room at 5601 Electron Drive. Members are invited to listen as board candidates answer questions about the member-owned cooperative and board service.

Names of members who vote in the annual election go into a drawing and two members will win one free year of electricity (up to 10,000 kWh). More information is posted at: www.chugachelectric.com.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Isn’t that special, now the ratepayers are going to have to pay for a lawsuit, that they will probally lose because the board did not do their homework. These fools should probally settle before the courts and lawyers get ahold of this. So sad..

  2. Chugach Electric is a wholly owned subsidiary of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

  3. A written offer should come after the background check, not before. That it got so far as a signed contract and, conceivably this gentleman was in the process (or had completed) of selling his house and moving, this is a pretty serious error.

  4. When I look at my CEA bill every month, there are charges for the Fire Island Wind Farm. Betraying the public trust to guarantee a profit to CIRI is the worst decision CEA ever made. Successful businesses jettison non-performing assets, shutting down FIWF would mitigate the need for rate increases.

    • I would imagine the contracts in place would cost more to nullify than to continue to pay exorbitant rates, certainly a bad deal for the rate payers. There are local electrical cooperative board elections going on around the state right now, if you purchase your electricity from a local cooperative now is the time to choose whom you wish to represent you and if you want to pay exorbitant rates.

      • And you’d have no more chance of getting a candidate not backed by the IBEW on the board than you have of getting a candidate not backed by the unions on the MOA Assembly or the ASD Board.

  5. The Chugach Board has transferred most of the control away from the IBEW and to the Alaska Center for the Environment. Either way, running a utility through the lens of an ideology is equal to insanity.

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