New York State Director of Emergency Management Steven Kuhr was fired by Gov. Andrew Cuomo for allegedly sending crews to take away a fallen tree on his own driveway in Long Island. / State of New York
ALBANY, N.Y. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has fired his $153,000-a-year emergency management director for diverting a crew to remove a tree from his Long Island home's driveway after Superstorm Sandy hit, a state official said Wednesday.
Director of Emergency Management Steven Kuhr was fired after the governor was told that Kuhr called a Suffolk County crew to remove a fallen tree from his driveway, according to the official. Kuhr was working in Albany at the time last week, shortly after Sandy hit.
The official spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the personnel decision wasn't announced. A spokesman for Cuomo declined to comment. The New York Times first reported the action.
Cuomo appointed Kuhr in October 2011 as executive deputy commissioner of the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.
There was no answer at Kuhr's office Wednesday night and a phone number listed in his name was not working. As of Wednesday afternoon, Kuhr's bio page had been taken down from the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services web site.
The action comes as Cuomo has bitterly criticized utilities for what he said has been slow progress restoring power to customers from the Hudson Valley through Long Island. Most of the power has been restored to more than 2 million customers who lost electricity because of Sandy, though lights started flickering off again Wednesday night as a new storm raked the region.
Kuhr previously was president of Strategic Emergency Group, a consulting firm that had contracts with New York City, the state and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, according to the news release announcing his appointment. Kuhr had also worked for New York City for 20 years including with the fire department.
The action comes as Cuomo has bitterly criticized utilities for what he said has been slow progress restoring power to customers from the Hudson Valley through Long Island. On Monday, Cuomo said the poor progress by the utilities was "unacceptable."
Con Edison restored power to almost all the high-profile Lower Manhattan customers who were without power by Friday evening. But Cuomo emphasized that there is more to New York, and Con Ed's service area, than Manhattan, and accused the utility companies of blowing other areas off.
When asked what kind of recourse he had against the power companies, Cuomo reminded a reporter that they are regulated by a government authority.
He said the state could take actions "from sanctions to revocation of franchise," he said.