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Head of Lansing public utility says he's sorry, but he won't resign

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero (left) and BWL General Manager J. Peter Lark at a press conference December 22nd.

The head of Lansing’s public utility says he won’t resign in the wake of a major ice storm that left hundreds of thousands of people in the dark over the holidays. J. Peter Lark, the general manager of Lansing Board of Water and Light issued this statement Thursday.

As has been reported by some media outlets, I with my wife, traveled to New York to visit my son last week. In hindsight, it is now clear that my trip to New York was the wrong decision at the wrong time. I left work for New York on the afternoon of Monday the 23rd and was back in the office the afternoon of Christmas day on the 25th. During this time I was in continuous contact with my management team directing the restoration effort, and it did not slow down the BWL's continuous efforts to restore power. However, I recognize that it did not meet the expectations of my customers or our employees. For that I am very sorry and do sincerely apologize. If I had it to do over again, and if I knew then that power outages would continue for so many more days, I would not have made the same choice. At the time, I firmly believed that the outage would be substantially resolved by Christmas day. Unfortunately, power outages continued for many customers. I humbly acknowledge this. Like most families, being with my wife and our son during the holidays is extremely important to me. Yet there are times when we are called upon as leaders to make personal sacrifices in the line of duty, the same way that so many of my customers and employees have made sacrifices during this outage. From that perspective, there is no question I should have stayed in Lansing to lead our restoration efforts in person, rather than directing my restoration management team by phone and email. I humbly and sincerely apologize. There will be a top to bottom review of how everything was handled over the past days and changes will be made. Our customers deserve the best and we hope to restore the trust that they have had in the BWL. Allow me to address a question that I know is on your mind. Should I resign my position as general manager of the BWL? The answer is no. There is a lot of work to do in implementing the changes necessary to bringing BWL’s technology into the 21st century, and I am confident I can continue, with the support of the board, the leadership role I’ve played at the BWL during the last 6 ½ years.

The Lansing State Journal reported on Lark's whereabouts earlier today basedon photos his wife had posted to her facebook page of the family visit to NYC.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero issued this statement after those reports:

"It was certainly an ill-advised decision given what has transpired and I am confident that Peter will take full responsibility for that. I continue to believe that after six years of progress at the helm of BWL he remains the best person to assess and fix what went wrong during this crisis. I hope the BWL board of commissioners will give him the opportunity to do that. At this point I believe the BWL and our community are better served by continuity rather than more disruption."

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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