Butler speaks up to say he won’t discuss departure from CL&P

The former top executive of Connecticut Light & Power Co. popped back up on the media grid Friday — one day after his resignation was announced — but only to indicate that he wouldn’t be discussing his departure.

“While I appreciate that the media may be interested in speaking to me about my decision to resign from CL&P, I have no comment, and will have no comment beyond the following statement,” former President and Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey D. Butler wrote in a release issued Friday afternoon by the company.

Northeast Utilities, the parent company to Connecticut’s largest electric utility, reported Thursday that it had “reluctantly” accepted Butler’s resignation.

“His commitment and dedication on behalf of our company, employees and customers have been exceptional,” NU President and CEO Charles W. Shivery said, but he declined to clarify whether Butler had been asked to resign. “Mr. Butler, I think, appreciated it was going to be challenging for him to go forward” as CL&P president, Shivery said.

Butler, who had battled waves of criticism over the company’s handling of nearly 1.6 million power outages from two recent storms, had defended CL&P’s response. During daily media briefings following both Tropical Storm Irene in late August and an Oct. 29 nor’easter, Butler said that while the company would look to improve, it largely had done all it could when faced with unprecedented storm damage.

“In just two months the state of Connecticut has faced two historic storms and the most challenging restoration in CL&P’s history,” he wrote in his Friday statement. “The employees responded to each event with dedication and resilience performing well under very difficult conditions.  It is a performance I am proud of.  And yet, from both storms, there are lessons to be learned.”

NU announced Thursday that it had launched its own independent review and created a  new high-level administrative post to improve storm response. The company also named James Muntz, president of CL&P’s transmission group, to serve as acting president while a national search for Butler’s permanent successor is launched.

“I believe CL&P will emerge even stronger from the review processes that are underway,” Butler added Friday. “However, I did not want my presence to be a distraction to that effort. I ask for the media to please respect my and my family’s privacy as we all move forward.”

Butler had conceded during his public interviews that following the October storm — which dumped heavy snow on a full canopy of leaves, splintering trees and much of the power grid — CL&P had struggled to secure private line and tree repair crews from out of state as quickly as it had hoped.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Friday that he hadn’t asked for Butler’s removal when he spoke with Shivery in the days following the Oct. 29 storm.

“I made it know that I was quite dissatisfied with the performance of the company,” the governor said, adding that “it is important that the company understands the requirement it now faces to reorganize itself.”

Malloy had become particularly critical of Butler after Nov. 6, when CL&P failed to meet its self-imposed deadline for resolving the 830,000 outages stemming from the October snowstorm.

Malloy, who directed Witt Associates, a Washington, D.C.-based risk management firm led by former Federal Emergency Management Agency director James Witt, to conduct an independent inquiry into the storm response, said he would receive a verbal briefing Friday. That firm is expected to submit its final assessment in early December.

Malloy had predicted that “some level of malfeasance” within CL&P would be uncovered before all analyses were completed.