City Light CEO responds to growing criticism


by KING 5 News

Posted on June 27, 2014 at 5:42 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 27 at 11:29 PM

SEATTLE -- Duped by copper-stealing con artists, approved for a hefty pay raise and under fire for his handling of rate-payer money, the CEO of Seattle City Light responds to intensifying criticism.

In an interview with KING 5 Friday, Jorge Carrasco responded to questions ranging from whether he thinks he deserves a raise to the scam he fell for that resulted in the theft of 20 tons of copper.

"I do think it's important to bear in mind that, it's just like how you can't judge a player's performance in an athletic event by missing that last shot, or making that one mistake," said Carrasco.  "You judge the player based on the performance over the entire game and the results achieved as a result of that."

He's hoping people will do the same for him when it comes to his ten years running Seattle City Light.

KING 5 reported earlier this week City Light admitted Carrasco was approached by two men in a coffee shop last year, who told him they were members of an Indian tribe working with disabled children and were looking for a donation of a small amount of copper.

Carrasco said that the controls City Light had in place to verify the men's claims were simply not followed. He said his staff did virtually no checking into their background because the utility company had only agreed to give them a "minuscule" amount of copper. We now know they made off with $120,000 worth of scrap wire.

The CEO said the metal was eventually recovered and no money was lost, but admitted it's a mistake that resulted in changes in policy.

"If you're asking me whether we were disappointed the way it worked out the way it did, yes. Are we embarrassed by the thing, yes. If that's what you're asking me, yes I would say we're disappointed this happened. And as I said, we put controls in place to make sure it didn't happen again. I don't know what else I can tell you," Carrasco told KING 5.

Carrasco's $245,000 a year makes him the second-highest paid employee in the city, after new Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole. Earlier this month Seattle City council approved a higher salary range for Carrasco, which Mayor Murray is expected to approve any day.

KING 5 asked Carrasco whether he thinks he deserves the pay increase.

"I think that's for the mayor and council to decide," said Carrasco. "They're the people I work for and I think that ought to be a function of performance and a function of how well the utilities do."

On Thursday, Seattle City Light released a four-year history of energy consumption and billing for Carrasco's home. The records were released in response to a public disclosure request by The Seattle Times. 

When KING 5 shared those records with our viewers and online readers, many thought the rates Carrasco is paying seemed low for what he tells us is a 3600 square foot home.

We asked whether he is getting any kind of subsidized rate.

"Of course not," he said.  "I'm on the same rate schedule everyone else is, there is no special consideration for me or anybody else.  My wife and I are very conscientious about energy use, but I think our usage and bills are representative of what I think customers that are conscientious about energy use would reflect."

Earlier this month The Seattle Times reported Seattle City Light spent more than $17,000 to remove unflattering stories about Carrasco and Seattle City Light on the internet - or at least "drown them" so the critical stories wouldn't immediately appear in Google searches.

Carrasco now admits that, too, was a mistake

"I think it was a mistake to have relied on this firm to help us with this particular part of the effort," he said.  

He says the contract with that firm has since been canceled and Seattle City Light has been told it will get a full refund.

When asked about his biggest accomplishments as CEO, Carrasco said Seattle City Light now has the highest credit rating of any utility in the Pacific Northwest, along with $110 million in its financial reserves.  He says that's the most the utility has ever had in its reserves.

(View the released energy bills for Carrasco below or click here.)

Seattle Light CEO Jorge Carrasco Electricity Bills