Zurik: Entergy quiet on its secret committee of paid citizen advisors
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Entergy New Orleans has a secret it has been keeping from its customers and the New Orleans City Council -- that it pays a group of citizens for their input. But specific details on the committee, including their role, how much they are paid and exactly who is selected for this committee, remain a secret.
- Editor’s note: One day following this investigation, Entergy released some information on the committee. Click here to read about the information released.
New Orleans District A Councilman Joe Giarrusso said he has heard of the committee but has also not received specifics.
“I’ve heard about it before, I didn’t even know about it for all of these years before I was elected. I think the first time I learned about it was right afterward,” Giarrusso said. “Apparently it is a group of people who are on this advisory board who are members of the public who, I guess, have some sort of payment from Entergy, I think, and are asked to go represent them.”
Giarrusso asked the utility for more information on the committee and asked the city council’s utility advisors to investigate.
“I think it’s important to know and they [the advisors] said in the past, they’ve asked Entergy for the list,” Giarrusso said. “It has not been an argument, but it’s sort of been a ‘we’ll get it to you later’ and it hasn’t happened. And my view is now that we’re going to have new council that we need to get the list so we know who these people are. So there can be no question.”
FOX 8 also asked for the names of the advisory board members, the yearly compensation paid to the members and their duties. An Entergy spokesperson said she would look into our request and get back to us, but she never did and never responded to our follow-up e-mails. FOX 8′s Lee Zurik started asking questions about this committee four years ago, but back then Entergy gave a vague response to our questions saying: “As do many companies, Entergy New Orleans seeks input from local leaders to gain diverse perspectives on the issues facing our growing city. This collaboration is valuable as we work to best meet our customers’ needs now and in the future. Costs incurred by Entergy New Orleans are reviewed and vetted by our regulator, the New Orleans City Council, on a periodic basis.”
The New Orleans City Council has not reviewed or vetted anything about the advisory group and Giarrusso said he is not sure if ratepayer money is funding the advisory positions.
The news of the committee comes as a shock to ratepayers like Katherine Prevost who is a neighborhood association leader and critic of Entergy. She just received a $4,000 bill from Entergy on an estimated reading of her meter. Prevost said the usage estimate is nowhere near what she actually used.
“[It is] shocking, truly is shocking, I’m in awe,” Prevost said when told about the committee.
Prevost believes that Entergy should open its books and reveal the members of this committee and how they are paid.
“I think that’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard,” she said. “You’re going to take money from us to pay them to consult you? I can’t even much fathom why somebody would want to even do that.”
FOX 8 has confirmed two New Orleanians who have served on the group, Former City Councilmember Eddie Sapir and businessman Joe Jaeger. It is unclear if Sapir or Jaeger is still on the advisory group.
Giarrusso is also concerned about the lack of disclosure of the group’s members because he is not sure whether someone is lobbying him on behalf of Entergy without disclosing it.
“If you don’t know what role somebody is playing, it certainly makes it different, and obviously, there was a difference in my mind between somebody approaching me as a paid representative, as somebody who’s just a neighborhood leader and this issue is something that I want to take care of,” Giarrusso said.
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