I-Team investigates Jeff Butler, CEO of CL&P - WFSB 3 Connecticut

I-Team investigates Jeff Butler, CEO of CL&P



Jeff Butler has been at the top of Connecticut Light & Power since 2009, but he's hardly new to the world of public utilities.

For 27 years, Butler, an engineer by training, he worked at Pacific Gas and Electric in San Francisco, CA.

He rose to senior vice president at PG&E, and he was responsible for getting gas and electric service to some 10 million customers. The I-team found that while Butler was in charge, that huge utility had very similar issues to what's happened here this past week.

Mindy Spatt works for the Utility Reform Network, a watchdog group in California, said Pacific Gas had a reputation for blowing storms out of proportion to justify long outages during Butler's tenure.

"They did seem to think that out here that even a rainstorm was categorized as a major emergency," she said.

The I-Team found a 2003 San Francisco Chronicle that described lawmakers "lambasting" Pacific Gas officials, including Butler, when they disagreed with Butler's assessment that $2.5 million outages were due to a "major storm emergency."

Butler was more apologetic in an Los Angeles Times article that same year when his workers took two hours to respond to a fire alarm at a substation. There, he did accept responsibility for his worker's mistake. The I-Team asked Spatt if she's surprised Butler has been front and center since the storm. She said that's something he definitely learned at Pacific Gas.

"Pacific Gas often does a better job at marketing and media than they did at actual customer communications," Spatt said.

Butler has been reluctant to talk about the toll this has been taking on him personally, but the best clue might be that sport utility vehicle parked outside his Avon home with a security guard inside. He did say last week that he, too, has been without power.

Neighbors told Eyewitness News that power came back on in his house on Thursday and that the security guard has been outside the 8,000 square foot home 24/7 since Friday.

Butler bought the home for $1.6 million in 2009. CL&P is required by state law to disclose salaries of their executives, but they skirt that law by only disclosing the salary of executives at their parent company, Northeast Utilities, who's CEO makes $8.2 million per year.

It is unclear how close to that Butler's salary comes.

"I'd say that he's a normal neighbor. Keeps to himself," said Mike Dizio who lives across the street from Butler.

The I-Team found that Butler has made small contributions to many Democratic lawmakers in Connecticut, but besides that he keeps a low profile politically.

We asked CL&P what they wanted the I-Team to include in a look at Butler's personal life, and they told us it's important to him that we mention his charity work for United Way and service to the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce.

For now, however, he's the public face of a power crisis. What happens in the days and weeks to come may have taken its shape over 27 years in California.

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