US Energy Department names new head of BPA after hiring scandal

US Energy Department names new head of BPA after hiring scandal
This undated file photo from the Bonneville Power Administration shows newly appointed BPA administrator Elliot Mainzer. The U.S. Energy Department announced Monday, Jan. 27, 2014 that Mainzer is the new BPA administrator. His predecessor was suspended and later resigned after the inspector general found widespread discrimination in hiring veterans and retaliation against whistleblowers at the utility. (AP Photo/Bonneville Power Administration)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The U.S. Energy Department named a new administrator Monday to run the Bonneville Power Administration after a hiring scandal rocked the federal utility that sells and transmits much of the Northwest's cheap and abundant hydroelectric power.

Elliot Mainzer has worked in various management jobs at BPA since 2002, including deputy administrator. He was named acting administrator last July upon the suspension of his predecessor, Bill Drummond.

"Elliot Mainzer has the proven experience to lead BPA during this important time and I look forward to working with him to serve BPA's customers, constituents and employees in the months and years to come," Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a statement.

Mainzer said in a statement that he was honored and excited to lead BPA "during this challenging and historic time for the region."

Drummond was suspended after the inspector general found widespread discrimination in hiring veterans and retaliation against whistleblowers at the utility. It followed a highly critical audit of human resources work. Chief operating officer Anita Decker also was suspended after allegations that veterans were not given the proper preference in hiring and managers retaliated against whistle-blowers.

Drummond formally resigned earlier this month, and he took a job as deputy executive director of the Mid-West Electric Consumers Association, based in Wheat Ridge, Colo. Before taking the BPA post, Drummond managed the Western Montana Electric Generation and Transmission Cooperative in Missoula, Mont.

Mainzer's appointment had been supported by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

"Elliot Mainzer is the right choice at a difficult time for the BPA," Wyden said in a statement. "He has taken strong steps to address discrimination in veteran hiring, which was one of my main concerns. He will also provide much-needed stability as BPA works to get back on its feet and win back the public's trust."

After Drummond's suspension, Wyden and other members of Congress from the region told the Energy Department that the scandal should not become an excuse to micromanage the region's energy policy from Washington, D.C.

BPA is self-financed and enjoys autonomy in policy-making that is unusual among federal agencies. Critics have long blasted BPA for keeping the benefits of low-cost and abundant hydropower in the Northwest, and the agency has faced regular attempts to shift control to Washington, privatize the system, and sell the power at market rates.