Public Works Director Steve Zurn's main task in his new role as interim head of Glendale Water & Power will be to conduct an extensive review of the utility's operations, City Manager Scott Ochoa said this week.
His marching orders come one week after the former general manager of Glendale Water & Power, Glenn Steiger, resigned abruptly May 23 after city officials began investigating a case of possible double-billing based on expense receipts he submitted to another public agency.
All parties involved have maintained that Steiger resigned for personal reasons. However, Bill Carnahan, executive director of the Southern California Public Power Authority, said city officials, in asking for copies of reimbursement receipts, expressed concern that Steiger may have billed both agencies for the same expenses.
After Zurn's appointment was approved by the City Council on Tuesday, Ochoa said that over the next 90 days, Glendale Water & Power's strengths and weaknesses would be examined.
“I want to know what he thinks,” Ochoa said of Zurn, describing him as an “exceptional leader” and “frugal manager.”
The utility recently had to increase and restructure water rates to combat a $21-million water-side deficit. Glendale Water & Power also has been deferring maintenance and several capital improvement projects as it struggles with a tight budget.
Prior to his departure, Steiger had warned that without taking steps to boost revenues, dozens of jobs would be at risk, and deferred maintenance would start to mount.
Despite the difficulties, the American Public Power Assn. commended Glendale Water & Power for being a safe and reliable organization, for the second year in a row.
Zurn acknowledged the additional workload that comes as a result of the council's appointment.
“I've got a lot of work to do,” he said.
Depending on his performance, Zurn — a city employee for 25 years, nine of them as public works director — could be in line to remain in the post at Glendale Water & Power, Ochoa said.
If that occurs, the city likely would appoint a new public works director, but until then, Zurn would direct both departments.
“I'm very confident in his abilities,” Mayor Frank Quintero said.