Traverse City Record-Eagle

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October 23, 2012

Utility director's future in doubt

Board meeting today to discuss Rice's contract

TRAVERSE CITY — Ed Rice's future as executive director of Traverse City Light & Power could be in jeopardy.

Rice has headed TCL&P for nearly five years. A review of his contract was placed on the utility's Board of Directors meeting agenda for tonight, and interviews with board members indicate Rice's future job status is uncertain.

"My only comment is I think it's going to be a newsworthy board meeting," Rice said.

Patrick McGuire, chairman of the utility's board of directors, said Rice's contract review will have one of four outcomes: termination, amend it, renegotiate it or do nothing. If the board chooses to do nothing, Rice will continue to head the utility and earn his $116,000 annual salary.

"It's going to come before the board," McGuire said, adding termination "is one of the actions that could be taken."

Board member Mike Coco said he supports Rice and thinks he's done a good job. Some on the board, however, "have trust issues" with Rice, he added.

"I believe the board is going to have a heart to heart about Ed and about the board," Coco said. "There's a concern about trust in Ed by a handful of board members. I am not one of them. I don't personally have that trust issue.

"I want to have a heart to heart about Ed's performance, but also about a review of the organization and the perception of the organization by some of our board members," Coco said.

City Councilman Jim Carruthers, who also sits on TCL&P's Board of Directors, said he feels Rice is "the wrong person for the job."

Carruthers said Rice has not been fully accountable to the board of directors and the community. Carruthers is also frustrated over the utility's perceived abandonment of its aggressive renewable energy goals. The utility previously committed to a portfolio of 30 percent renewable energy by 2020.

When a proposed biomass plant failed, Carruthers said, it seemed the utility backed off from the renewables goal.

"Why not look at other opportunities?" Carruthers said.

Carruthers said he gave Rice a middle-of-the-road job evaluation. At least four others on the board of directors rated Rice as below average.

The meeting starts at 5:15 p.m. in commission chambers at the Governmental Center, 400 Boardman Ave.

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