Joined: 02 Mar 2009
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Posted: Wed Apr 12, 2017 7:41 am Post subject: Hydro One's ombudsman departure kept secret
( so apparently the ombudsman for hydro one quit and this was not released to the public and even mpp's were slow to hear about it )
Hydro One watchdog’s departure kept secret by company
Hydro One ombudsman resigned last month, leaving critics wondering why the utility kept it secret
Energy Minister Glen Thibeault had no explanation for the secrecy around the departure of Hydro One ombudsman Fiona Crean, above, but said an investigator from her staff is running the office with a search for a replacement underway.
By Rob FergusonQueen's Park Bureau
Tues., April 11, 2017
Hydro One ombudsman Fiona Crean quit March 10 after less than two years in the job, leaving critics wondering why the company kept her departure secret for so long while it’s under heavy scrutiny.
The resignation of Crean — who was Toronto’s hard-hitting ombudsman before leaving for Hydro One — blows a gaping hole in a new law requiring the utility to have an in-house consumer watchdog, opposition parties charged Tuesday.
“Who is this government trying to fool?” said Progressive Conservative MPP Steve Clark.
“The former Hydro One ombudsman left over a month ago, yet her name and picture are still on the government website, and there’s no media release about her replacement.”
When the Liberal government began the partial privatization of Hydro One to raise $9 billion, it stripped Ontario’s ombudsman and other officers of the legislature of powers to oversee the former Crown utility.
In exchange, Hydro One — which had been the subject of a stinging investigation by former Ontario ombudsman André Marin over a massive billing fiasco — was ordered to set up its own ombudsman office.
“This is something that could be corrected easily,” New Democrat MPP Peter Tabuns said Tuesday. “Restore the authority to Ontario’s ombudsman . . . give Ontarians the protection they deserve.”
In his report, Marin said thousands of customers felt like they were “wrestling with a slippery pig” in sorting out overbillings blamed on a new computer system. One woman had $8,930 “sucked” from her bank account in an automatic withdrawal.
The Hydro One ombudsman’s office is yet to produce its first annual report on its investigations on behalf of individual consumers or on any systemic investigations undertaken.
Energy Minister Glen Thibeault had no explanation for the secrecy around Crean’s departure but said an investigator from her staff, Sophie Petrillo, is running the office with a search for a replacement underway.
“The time frame is making sure you get the right person and not just a warm body. Fiona Crean did some great work,” he told reporters.
“The former ombudsman took another job, just like other people do. We wish her well.”
Crean could not be reached for comment through her new employer, Indspire, a national charity that helps indigenous students complete their education through scholarships, bursaries and awards.
She’s taking on the role as chief operating officer of Indspire, headed by Hydro One board member Roberta Jamieson.
Hydro One, which has been under fire for the $4.84-million annual compensation paid to its new CEO, Mayo Schmidt, said in a statement that consumers with concerns about their Hydro One bills are still being served.
“The office of the ombudsman is fully operational and will continue to play a key role in resolving customer complaints and supporting the company’s path to customer excellence,” the statement said.
Hydro One is still planning to open customer service centres in regional offices, said spokesperson Tiziana Baccega Rosa.
Clark said Crean initially did many customer outreach meetings with Hydro One officials in smaller cities around the province where angry consumers would often congregate to vent about high bills.
“Her office responded well to billing issues and customer service issues. But then they started to change,” Clark told the Star, adding the next round of meetings is “strictly Hydro One people, not the ombudsman’s office.”
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