Niagara Gazette — Just when Western New York’s beleaguered electricity rate payers think they’ve heard it all, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli releases an audit that found 35 percent of the New York Power Authority’s 1,636 full- and part-time employees earn $100,000 or more per year. Of those, 58 employees earned in excess of $150,000.
By comparison, as DiNapoli notes, just 14 percent of state public authority employees as a whole earn more than $100,000, and only 8 percent of state employees earn as much.
As an added insult, DiNapoli’s auditors found the authority — which is now operating with debt approaching nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars — continues to fly its own private plane by employing three full-time pilots and a director of aviation and travel who, all together, were paid nearly $400,000 last year.
While authority officials have accused DiNapoli’s audit team of misinterpreting key facts and ignoring reforms they have enacted in recent years, there’s no denying that the latest report underscores an all-too-familiar trend when it comes to authority operations.
This is not the first time state auditors have uncovered questionable expenses inside the entity charged with distributing New York’s low-cost hydropower, including electricity produced at our own Robert Moses Power Project in Lewiston.
Two years ago, state auditors found authority executives had spent roughly $340,000 on various events over a two-year period, including $160,000 on a total of 21 holiday parties and picnics and $46,000 on gifts for employees.
While we agree authority executives have enacted reforms and cut spending on such things since then, we can’t help but question the entity’s salary structure anymore than we could ignore the authority’s plane and the staff it employs to keep it flying.
To authority executives who might bristle at such criticism, we would ask the following question: How may private businesses in Western New York have a workforce where one-third of the employees earn $100,000 or more per year? How many can afford to fly their top executives around on their own company plane?