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Gas Commission gives PGW until Friday to respond on bonuses

The Philadelphia Gas Commission on Tuesday put off a probe into a secret bonus plan for executives of Philadelphia Gas Works, to give the city-owned utility time to respond to a request for more information.

The Philadelphia Gas Commission on Tuesday put off a probe into a secret bonus plan for executives of Philadelphia Gas Works, to give the city-owned utility time to respond to a request for more information.

The Gas Commission, which has oversight responsibility for PGW's budget, is looking into a bonus plan that came to light in an April 10 Inquirer article. The commission had not been informed about the plan, whose purpose was to induce key executives not to leave PGW during the 2014 process aimed at selling the utility.

PGW said its board of directors, the nonprofit Philadelphia Facilities Management Corp. (PFMC), approved the bonus plan, which paid eight executives a total of $333,348 in December. PGW maintains that the expense was included in the budget but was not explicitly explained.

Robert W. Ballenger, a Community Legal Services attorney who serves as the city's residential-ratepayer advocate, said he was "very disappointed" to learn of the bonus plan in the newspaper. He said the failure to disclose the plan in advance was a violation of the management agreement the city has with PFMC.

It's unclear what sanctions, if any, the Gas Commission can impose if it finds PGW did not provide adequate notice about the retention bonuses.

The commission gave PGW until Friday to respond to its information requests. It will take up the matter at its May meeting.

Two new members joined the Gas Commission on Tuesday.

Councilman Derek S. Green, appointed by City Council, replaces former Councilwoman Marian B. Tasco, who retired. Green, who was a Tasco aide before he was elected, was named the commission's chairman.

Jocelyn Hill, a former city Law Department regulatory lawyer who is now public-affairs director for Conrail, was appointed by Mayor Kenney to replace Carmen E. Adames, an accountant and tax adviser who served on the commission for eight years.

Three commission members are returning: Royal E. Brown, a mayor appointee who is vice president of Independence Blue Cross; Councilman Curtis Jones Jr.; and Alan L. Butkovitz, the city controller.

Tasco, who chaired the commission for nearly 24 years, is not cutting ties to PGW in her retirement. Kenney has appointed her to an unpaid position on PFMC, the utility's board of directors.

amaykuth@phillynews.com

215-854-2947 @maykuth

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