Lynch out of running for BLP job

Longtime assistant to retire after talks on new director’s contract break down

David Lynch

MARQUETTE — David Lynch, assistant director of the Marquette Board of Light and Power, is resigning his position at the public utility, forgoing the soon-to-be vacant executive director position he was favored to assume.

The special committee tasked with exploring an employment agreement with Lynch reported to the BLP Board of Directors Tuesday that mutually beneficial terms could not be reached.

On the committee’s recommendation, the five-member board unanimously approved initiating a search to fill Executive Director Paul Kitti’s role once he retires June 30.

Chairman Tom Tourville said a temporary acting director will likely be nominated for a board vote at the next meeting.

Tourville said the point of the committee was to explore mutual interests, goals and needs, however, “There wasn’t a mutual agreement.”

“He was our first candidate so, … the committee followed that process, and then the whole purpose of that is to see what the outcome is, and in this case, there wasn’t a consensus,” Tourville said.

The board is looking at about three firms presently to initiate a search process.

Kitti and Lynch are retiring just as the new $62 million Marquette Energy Center is due to go online at the beginning of July.

Manager of Planning and Utility Compliance Erik Booth, who had vied for the executive director position with Lynch and Kitti in 2012, resigned and moved on to another position in downstate Grand Haven, Lynch said in an interview this morning.

Lynch was absent at Tuesday’s meeting.

“We worked on a contract for a couple of weeks, and it got to a point where it just, it wasn’t meeting my needs,” Lynch said this morning. “And for me to take on that kind of responsibility as director, I would have to have certain things in the contract that weren’t there for me, so I wasn’t comfortable with accepting it, so I just decided to retire then.”

BLP Board Secretary Dave Puskala, along with board member Bob Niemi, BLP Director of Personnel Mary Adamini and city legal counsel, were appointed April 11 to the committee to establish a scope of work and potential terms of employment with Lynch.

In an interview this morning, Puskala said the committee stood fast in its resolve to restructure the management of the BLP, which included elimination of the assistant director position and placing greater importance on the board’s performance review that, under the current arrangement, has no teeth.

“That’s not to say — I think Paul Kitti did a great job too as director,” Puskala said. “(But) the contract that he had, the performance review really meant nothing. The raises were automatic. There was no point to doing a review other than to exchange pleasantries maybe.”

Based on research of executive director contracts in the state and nation, Puskala said the board wants to link the bonus structure to meeting or exceeding specific operating metrics.

While declining to give specific numbers without consulting with the board and legal counsel, Puskala said the base salary and bonus structure offered to Lynch was fair, reasonable “very solid and competitive with the market.”

It wasn’t substantially different than the salary structure Kitti receives, Puskala said.

He praised the staff remaining as being very strong and capable.

“At the end of the day, my thought is yeah, change is unsettling, but I think we have a very thoughtful board, a very strategic board right now and a board with good intelligence and one that wants to set things up for the (BLP) to succeed going forward,” Puskala said. “With the (MEC), you know things have changed. There’s been a number of rate increases over last few years, we need to set things up and structure things so that that sort of thing doesn’t continue. … We have to toe the line on costs, and we have to be very diligent in our operations of the (BLP) to make sure that we have stable and reliable energy going forward but also reign in the rate increases that we’ve seen. … That’s our goal is to say, ‘We’re (going to) focus our efforts on running this utility like a business and running it the way it should be run.'”

Lynch said he has no hard feelings toward the board.

“With the additional pressures and the things that happen in that seat in the office next to me, I just decided that for what was offered, it just wasn’t worth it for me at this time,” Lynch said.

“I’ve got no hard feelings for the board, that’s their decision on what they want to construct in the contract, and I respect them for that, and I hope they have no hard feelings for me. I’ve had a great career here and I love this company and I love the customers we serve, and they’ll carry on just fine.”