Texas

CPS Energy has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on housing costs for current and former executives, records show

SAN ANTONIO – In recent years, CPS Energy has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on housing costs for current and former utility managers, records received from KSAT 12 Defenders.

Often, the five-figure benefit described by CPS Energy employees as a “transitional housing payment” for executives hired by the company outside of San Antonio went to a number of employees who had a relatively short tenure at the company. Payments to individual CPS Energy executives are far ahead of similar benefits paid to executives at other major public organizations in San Antonio.

CPS Energy employees have repeatedly denied requests to answer questions about the practice in front of a camera. Interim President and CEO Rudy Garza was physically protected by other utility workers as defenders tried to ask him about the issue following a recent meeting of the Municipal Utility Committee.

CPS Energy has paid $ 213,920.49 in housing costs for eight of its executives since 2015, financial statements show. Four of these executives are no longer in the company.

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Two of them, former Chief Information Officer Karen Kiruan and former Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer Delores Lenzy-Jones, received a total of $ 102,064.59, although their terms lasted less than two years.

Kirvan, who left the company at the end of 2018, received $ 57,458.20 in housing costs, records show. A man at her home in the San Antonio area declined to comment last month and returned all our questions about the payment back to CPS Energy, even though Kiruan no longer works there.

Lency-Jones received $ 44,606.39 in housing costs, but eventually left the company in 2020 and is now the CFO of the Austin Park System, records show. She did not respond to an email asking for comment on this story.

Another former CFO and treasurer of CPS Energy, Edward Fleming Jr., received nearly $ 22,000 in housing costs. Cynthia Triplet, the company’s former senior security director, received nearly $ 20,000 in housing expenses, records show.

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Four current CEOs of CPS Energy, including its chief information officer, two vice presidents and a senior director, have received housing payments ranging from $ 7,646.62 to $ 31,906.96, records show.

“It’s upstairs. Yes, that’s up. I want to say that this is something they have to explain, “said Mario Bravo, a municipal councilor from District 1.

“If you’re trying to hire an executive director out of town, you want him to move here. These are relocation costs, this is a place to live until you find a place to live, “said Bravo, who added that the utility company should set a maximum limit if it has not already done so.

“I’ve seen much higher, but I think we still have to look at the right ceiling for San Antonio,” Bravo said, recalling the story of a professor at the University of Texas who was given a simple loan of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“What is the maximum they have to hit?” And maybe, maybe there should be a lower maximum. In this way, it encourages anyone to find a place to live earlier, so as not to exceed these limits, “said Bravo.

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Bravo has ordered an external audit of CPS Energy.

Members of the Municipal Utility Committee, including Bravo, were briefed late last month by CPS Energy officials on the next steps in the process.

Bravo said he was pleased with the company’s approach, as CPS Energy’s board was managing the request for proposals to eventually review several areas of the company’s internal work.

“This prevents CPS Energy staff from putting a thumb on the scales,” Bravo said.

How do other public organizations deal with housing costs for executives?

The city of Bryan, which runs the public, albeit smaller, energy company Bryan Texas Utilities, does not cover housing costs for utility executives or city officials, a Defenders official said.

College Station Utilities has not paid for housing or transitional housing costs for its employees, but has covered $ 1,004.88 per accommodation for the cost of moving out of state since early 2015, the administration’s manager said in an email.

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The city of San Antonio, which has a workforce nearly four times that of CPS Energy, is offering to cover housing costs for some executive-level positions. However, that figure is usually limited to $ 16,000, a city human resources official confirmed.

The City of San Antonio offers relocation payments for some executive-level positions, but usually limits that amount to $ 16,000. (KSAT)

Bexar County, which also has a significantly larger workforce than CPS Energy, has offered to cover housing costs only once in the last decade, a spokeswoman confirmed.

These payments are limited to $ 6,000 and require prior approval from the county governor, the spokeswoman said.

Interim President, CEO of CPS Energy avoids questions from KSAT 12 Defenders

Garza, who spoke at a two-hour meeting of the Municipal Utilities Committee on February 22nd, repeatedly refused to answer questions about the leaders’ housing payments as he left the municipal council hall.

“I think, I think we gave you the information,” Garza said as he left the rooms.

A group of CPS Energy employees, including Chief Legal Officer Shana Ramirez, moved between Garza and the defenders before a Garza official told us that the interim CEO had another meeting.

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CPS Energy Chief Legal and Ethics Officer Shana Ramirez directed an aide to Dylan Collier after a municipal utility committee meeting on February 22nd. (KSAT)

Defenders also had to ask a utility spokeswoman to stop touching the reporter after she put her hand on his arm twice as he walked to Garza.

Hours later, while a KSAT reporter was interviewed on another topic at CPS Energy’s headquarters, corporate communications officials told him that this would be KSAT’s only chance to ask about housing costs.

“You will have the opportunity to stand in front of her now or he (Dylan) will have the opportunity to receive a statement,” a CPS spokesman said.

The KSAT reporter, who was unaware of the issue of housing costs, declined to participate in the interview and told utility workers that the request was not acceptable.

The release of CPS Energy CEO’s financial documents comes months after an investigation by Defenders found that the former CEO had accumulated more than $ 53,000 in corporate credit card fees in one year.

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Fred Bonewell, former CPS Energy’s chief safety officer before being promoted to chief operating officer in June, often charged several meals a day with his corporate card and used the card to pay for group dinners, which are usually priced ranged from $ 300 to more than $ 700, financial documents show.

Bonewell resigned in October, days after Defenders uncovered past ethical and corporate complaints against him.

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CPS Energy has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on housing costs for current and former executives, records show

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