WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA9) - Since Tuesday, 9 Wants to Know has been asking Pepco whether it has decreased the number of linemen on staff, but the electric utility cannot or will not answer.
Watch the video attached to this story to see Pepco President Graham abruptly end the interview and walk off after saying repeatedly that he doesn't know and that he cannot approximate.
"I don't remember the exact number," Graham said as he failed to answer 9News Now Reporter Gary Nurenberg's repeated questions Tuesday about linemen staffing. "Approximately, I cannot because the work force consisting of union employees and contract work force. I don't know. "
To watch the seven minute raw interview, click here: http://www.wusa9.com/video/1719739074001/1/Pepcos-Tom-Graham-Abruptly-Ends-Interview
Tuesday, on 9 News Now, a union leader told Derek McGinty the staffing of Pepco linemen had been cut in half over 15 years.
Despite multiple phone calls and e-mails, three days later, the public utility still isn't answering the question.
The utility did issue a statement Friday, shortly beforepublication, saying that Pepco "meets its field labor requirements through acombination of internal personnel and contractors."
"We havehired 59 new bargaining unit line personnel since 2009," the Pepco release said.
The statement said Pepco's restoration resources are largerthan they had been 15 years ago, but spokeswoman Myra Opal declined to answerthe question about staffing of linemen.
"Right now we are focused on restoring our customers,"Opal said.
9 Wants to know asked the Maryland Governor, the District Mayor, the Chairman of the Prince George's County Council, and the President of the Montgomery County Council to pose the question to Pepco themselves.
Only Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner agreed.
"I have texted (Pepco President) Tom Graham and asked him," Berliner replied. "That is a big deal. I think that they may have only 130 something line men. "
Attorney Scott Hempling, who specializes in public utilities, and says a monopoly like Pepco has a responsibility to answer.
"The president of a company ought to know that, ought to disclose that," Hempling said. "If he's not, the regulators, whose job it is to extract performance from the utilities ought to demand it."
Berliner said lower linemen staffing could directly affect restorations.
"Not only does it impact their capacity to respond directly, it impacts their ability to get other crews," Berliner said. "Utilities provide crews to other utilities based on mutual assistance.
"If you cannot provide assistance in return, you get less crews," Berliner said. "So it is a double whammy."
Have a tip about public utility failures, waste, or corruption? E-mail 9 Wants to Know at firstname.lastname@example.org