Former OPPD employee made more than $1 million in three years.
- Gavin Geis
Compensation included more than $150,000 in moving, housing and tuition payments.
OMAHA, Neb. —Jeff Reinhart is a nuclear power expert and according to his LinkedIn profile, he’s currently employed at Duke Energy, a multi-billion dollar private energy provider on the east coast. But before he took that job, Nebraska residents’ power bills paid him more than $1 million.
In Atlanta in 2008, Omaha Public Power District recruited Reinhart from the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, where he worked at what the public utility calls, “a highly regarded industry organization.”
To get him to trade that skyline for one in Omaha, he was presented with a deal that would give him $120,000 in moving and housing expenses, $48,000 for his tuition payments to Georgia colleges for his kids and a salary of $258,000 per year.
OPPD felt “these requests were reasonable for the skillset that Mr. Reinhart, who came highly recommended, would be bringing to the district.”
But there’s more.
Reinhart received nearly $30,000 in bonuses and in 2011, court records show OPPD severed him at a cost of $144,000, almost $200,000 if you count the unused vacation he had.
In about three years, the Fort Calhoun Station manager walked away with nearly $1.2 million in salary, perks and severance — all from ratepayer money. As the plant closed, flood waters came and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission took control.
“That’s a lot of money and that’s a lot of money that should be explained to the public,” said Jack Gould, of Common Cause Nebraska.
Gould was stunned by the uncovered arrangement, especially since it never required any approval from the elected board members.
“This kind of thing is self-defeating in terms of a company or any public entity,” said Gould.
When the arrangement is compared to other publicly owned utilities around the country, the results are glaring.
The Nebraska Public Power District doesn’t pay tuition for employee’s children. Seattle City and Light said paying for tuition payments isn’t in their law. The Jacksonville Electric Authority said “that’s not something we do.”
After waiting outside a room for three hours, KETV NewsWatch 7 was given an answer from OPPD CEO Gary Gates:
“We’ve given you all the information you requested about this. It is a personnel issue and we don’t comment on those.”
OPPD used that same argument against one of its unions in court and a judge ruled against the public utility. Common Cause said OPPD has a duty to talk about this arrangement because these are public employees.
“And if you’re public, you’re public. You have to be accountable for all of those expenses,” said Gould.
Numerous attempts to contact Reinhart in North Carolina weren’t answered, though his severance agreement with OPPD contains a confidentiality clause.