Central Maine Power is bringing back its CEO from the 1990s with a stated mission to “restore public trust” in the embattled company.
Maine’s largest utility announced Wednesday morning that it had appointed David Flanagan to serve as the executive chairman of its board of directors. Flanagan led the utility as its CEO from 1994 to 2000, a period that included prolonged power outages following the ice storm of 1998.
The new hire comes as CMP has taken numerous hits to its reputation in the past few years and recently received the lowest score on a national ranking of customer satisfaction with electric utilities. After two years of scrutiny, state regulators recently ruled that CMP must compensate customers for billing errors, ordered an audit of the company’s management and docked future profits by up to $10 million.
“I’m very excited about the mission I am undertaking, which is to restore public trust in an organization that is critical to the well-being and success of the people of Maine,” Flanagan said at a Wednesday news conference in Portland.
CMP’s current CEO, Doug Herling, will report to Flanagan, who began his new role Tuesday, the company said. Flanagan will report to Tony Marone, the CEO of CMP’s parent company, Avangrid, a U.S. affiliate of Iberdrola, a multinational energy company based in Spain.
Flanagan told reporters that he was approached by Avangrid to take the job, but he insisted to leadership that he wouldn’t be “just a pretty face” and that he must have “substantive responsibility for governance and management” of CMP.
At the same time, proposed state legislation would replace CMP and Emera Maine with a consumer-owned utility and the company has been pursuing a controversial 145-mile transmission line through western Maine to bring hydropower from Quebec to Massachusetts utility customers that faces a referendum threat in 2020.
Flanagan said Wednesday that a separate team would continue to manage the regulatory and political effort to salvage the corridor project, saying his “sole job is restoring the trust and credibility and set the priorities for CMP on its core mission.”
He first took the reins of CMP at a similar nadir, when the company faced a 40 percent favorability rating that rose to 90 percent by the end of his tenure. He served in a number of high-profile public and nonprofit roles both before he joined CMP and after his departure.
He served as chief counsel to Gov. Joseph Brennan in the 1980s and briefly ran for governor as an independent in the early 2000s — at the time receiving support from now-Gov. Janet Mills. The University of Maine System has also twice tapped Flanagan to lead restructuring efforts.
In 2009, the Harvard University and Boston College Law School graduate led a University of Maine System task force that recommended ways to cut costs in the seven-university system. He served as the University of Southern Maine’s president from 2014 to 2015, when the university worked to close a $16 million budget gap by eliminating 51 positions and five programs, prompting clashes between faculty and system administrators.