Some residents have made allegations that our Village Administrator, Ralph Suozzi, who also serves as Chairman of the LIPA Board of Directors, has a conflict of interest. To be perfectly clear, the Third Track Project and this pole issue was solely an MTA/LIRR initiative. Mr. Suozzi had no role or any discussions regarding the Third Track project or any component of it either in his role as Village Administrator or as Chairman of the LIPA Board.
Mr. Suozzi has been the Village Administrator for six years. He was Non-Executive Chairman of the Board of LIPA when we hired him and continues to be its Chairman. The Village was well aware of his position as Non-Executive Chairman.
According to Black's Law Dictionary, a conflict of interest is defined as, "A term used in connection with public officials and fiduciaries and their relationship to matters of private interest or gain to them."
The position of LIPA Chairman is not a paid position - he serves without compensation. The position of Chairman has no operational powers. He does not make operational decisions. Furthermore, LIPA does not operate the electric power utility system on Long Island. As a result of the LIPA Reform Act of 2013, LIPA contracts with PSEG Long Island, a subsidiary of Public Service Enterprise Group Incorporated, one of the nation's largest electric utilities, to operate LIPA's electric system.
Mr. Suozzi has no authority or role with PSEG Long Island. He has never received nor does he receive any personal gain from the placement of poles along the Third Track in Garden City - or anywhere else. Again, Mr. Suozzi never participated in any of the Village's discussions with the MTA/LIRR or its contractors.
As has been confirmed in writing by both LIPA and the MTA/LIRR, the selection of the contractor, design, construction and outreach for the Third Track Project, including the poles, were within the sole discretion of the MTA/LIRR. Additionally, the Third Track Project, including the poles, is entirely funded by the MTA/LIRR.
Neither PSEG Long Island nor LIPA told MTA/LIRR where to locate the poles or had any discretion in telling MTA/LIRR where to place the poles. Save for two poles, which are approximately 7 inches on Village property, the poles are located entirely on MTA/LIRR land. The poles replace existing power poles in the area. There were always electric utility poles along the tracks. The sole role of PSEG Long Island - not LIPA, was to advise MTA/LIRR of the industry-wide standards to which new poles are to be built - including height and spacing - which are necessary and were adopted to withstand weather issues and to accommodate various utilities (not only electricity) which run lines on poles such as those in question, including those facilities of the MTA/LIRR. All standards are required under state and federal law and industry standards.
As part of this argument, we have also heard that LIPA benefits from the placement of poles above ground instead of burying the utility lines, again somehow resulting in a conflict of interest for Mr. Suozzi. LIPA operates as a not-for profit entity under New York State law, so it does not make money (or saved money) - as some have tried to assert - from the placement of poles in lieu of burying them underground, and again, this was not a LIPA project but is instead an MTA/LIRR project.