July 18, 2018 / 7:41 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Puerto Rico governor names new utility head after board members quit

(Updates with details of appointment, background, adds byline)

By Karen Pierog

July 18 (Reuters) - Puerto Rico’s governor on Wednesday named a new executive director of the bankrupt Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), following the resignation of five of the utility’s seven board members last week.

Jose Ortiz, a former chairman of the PREPA board, will be the second replacement for current head Walter Higgins, who resigned last week after four months on the job.

Higgins’ initial replacement, PREPA board member Rafael Diaz-Granados, quit a day after being named executive director of the utility, which is struggling with a massive restructuring effort following devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria last September.

Diaz-Granados and the four other board members resigned after Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosello blasted them for agreeing to pay Diaz-Granados an annual salary of $750,000. The PREPA board unanimously elected Ortiz, an electrical engineer, to the post on Wednesday, according to a statement from Rosello’s office. Ortiz, the fifth PREPA executive director named since the hurricane devastated the island and its electric grid, is due to take office on July 23.

“Ortiz is a proven public servant, who has worked with administrations of different political parties, so I have no doubt that he will be able to direct the energy transformation agenda of our administration, with the benefit of the people of Puerto Rico as his only focus,” Rosello said in the statement.

Ortiz, who will be paid an annual salary of $250,000, headed the PREPA board from 2011 to 2013, the statement said. After last week’s resignations, the governor appointed two new members to join the remaining two members on the PREPA board and named a new chairman and vice chairman.

Reporting By Karen Pierog; Editing by Daniel Bases and Susan Thomas

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