HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It was hailed as an ideal corporate marriage.
But a year after NextEra Energy announced it was buying Hawaii Electric Co. for $4.3 billion, the Florida company's number two executive had some unflattering things to say about the company's management and staff.
"I honestly believe that HECO's culture has to change. It has many good aspects but it is not sufficiently accountable. It's not sufficiently action-oriented and it's not sufficiently swift," said NextEra CFO Moray Dewhurst.
"This company lacks scale, it lacks scope and it lacks a lot of skill."
During a state Public Utilities Commission hearing Wednesday, Dewhurst also talked about potential job cuts. While employees are safe for the first two years of the merger, he said reductions could occur after that in order to achieve savings for customers.
"I think it will need to be reduced in due course," he said.
"The organization as it currently stands for the functions that it performs and delivers has too many people."
NextEra provided no estimate but the company says that staff reductions at NextEra are usually part of a voluntary separation program, not layoffs.
Consumer activist Henry Curtis is predicting mass job losses. Although it's 10 times the size of HECO, he said it's workforce is only has three times as large.
"We came to the conclusion that they were planning to layoff about a thousand people," said Curtis. "It was as if a mainland haole without any appreciation for Hawaii came here and said everything he could to make sure the deal failed."
Some critics agree that there needs to be more accountability at HECO, but they said that could be better achieved by selling the utility to customers and not to a mainland company.
State lawmakers are currently studying a plan to convert HECO into a publicly-owned utility, such as Kauai's electric company.
"The one thing that's clear is that public utilities owned by the people they serve don't have to send hundreds of millions of dollars to shareholders and to support enormous CEO salaries," said state Rep. Chris Lee, chairman of the House Energy Committee.
The state Public Utilities Commission will resume hearings on the merger in February.