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Former state consumer counsel named CMEEC ratepayer advocate

A West Hartford attorney serving as the independent consumer counsel for the Metropolitan District Commission, a water and sewer service in Hartford, was named Monday as the new ratepayer advocate for electric customers of the Norwich-based Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative.

State Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz named David Silverstone to finish the final six months of the two-year term of original ratepayer advocate Bill Kowalski, who resigned last week citing family medical issues. He will serve in both positions for the remainder of this year.

Silverstone will start Wednesday as the CMEEC ratepayer consumer advocate and expects to attend the CMEEC regular monthly meeting at 10 a.m. Thursday at the CMEEC office at 30 Stott Ave., Norwich.

Both part-time independent advocate positions were created in a 2017 state law calling for increased oversight of the nonprofit entities created by state statute. The municipal electric ratepayer advocate was created in response to public outcry over CMEEC’s hosting of lavish trips to the Kentucky Derby for four years. Five CMEEC officials were indicted in November 2018 in connection with their roles in planning the trips and other alleged misappropriation of CMEEC funds.

“We wish Bill Kowalski well, as he has done a fantastic job as CMEEC’s first advocate, increasing transparency and accountability for the public,” Katz said in a press release announcing Silverstone’s appointment. “I am equally confident that David Silverstone, who brings a great depth of knowledge and experience with both electric issues and advocacy, will be able to step into the CMEEC role and immediately build on Mr. Kowalski’s efforts.”

Silverstone was the first Connecticut consumer counsel when the position was created in 1975 and helped establish the state consumer advocate’s office. Both the CMEEC advocate position and the MDC position terms will expire Dec. 31.

Silverstone said Monday that the two entities have similarities and differences. MDC has about 100,000 direct retail customers, while CMEEC's electric customers are served by its member municipal utilities — Norwich Public Utilities, Groton Utilities, Jewett City Department of Public Utilities, Bozrah Light & Power and two utilities in Norwalk.

"Acting in the public interest, doing right by consumers, transparancy," Silverstone said. "Those are common themes."

Katz has resigned as state consumer counsel, effective July 3. Her successor will be responsible for appointments to the new two-year term for both positions, which will begin in January.

Silverstone said he hasn't yet decided whether he will seek reappointment to either position.

c.bessette@theday.com

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