The July 2007 Massacre


On July 16, 2007, his first day on the job, General Manager J. Peter Lark fired 3 top administrators: Bill Cook, senior vice president of operations; Amy Cavanaugh, the general counsel; and Bob Van Ells, manager of electric and steam production. Although it would seem he hardly had time to get to know them, he explained the firings to the Lansing State Journal as follows: "I'm trying to create a collegial, friendly group."

I think he wanted to share the bounty with friends. In the next few months, he hired 3 former colleagues at the Michigan Public Service Commission, which he had chaired before taking the BWL job.


Month Hired

BWL Job Title

PSC Salary

BWL Salary*

Susan Devon


Assistant General Manager



George Stojic


Executive Director of Planning and Strategic Development



William Aldrich


Manager of Finance and Planning



*Salaries are as of 12/31/2008.

Devon and Stojic now comprise half of the BWL executive team.

In August, this anonymous letter was received at the BWL:

Other firings followed. Richard Daly, a Human Resources employee, left in November. Denice Mulder, Human Resources Director, left in December. Those two came to light in a 2/22/09 Lansing State Journal article on payouts to former employees. The article said that in the previous 2 years, the BWL spent $1.3 million on payouts to former employees. Here's the part of that $1.3 million that consisted of direct payments; the rest was in the form of health benefits, etc. (click on name to see separation agreement):

Joseph Pandy Jr.


General Manager; fired in 2002. The $750,000 was to settle a lawsuit that also cost BWL $223,000 for legal services.

Sanford Novick


General Manager; left 8/25/06.

William Cook


Senior vice president of operations; fired by Peter Lark on 7/16/07, his first day on the job. On 12/21/07, was reinstated at a salary of $153,303 and put on paid administrative leave until 3/2/09, when he would have the 25 years of service that qualified him for full pension benefits.

Robert Van Ells


Manager of electric and steam production; fired by Peter Lark on 7/16/07, his first day on the job. On 8/27/07, Van Ells agreed to retire as of 7/20/07.

Amy Cavanaugh


General Counsel; fired by Peter Lark on 7/16/07, his first day on the job. On 7/24/07, she agreed to "resign" as of 7/16/07.

Denise Mulder


Human Resources Director; on 12/13/07, agreed to "resign" as of 12/5/07.

Richard Daly


Human Resources employee; on 11/29/07, after threatening to sue BWL for wrongful discharge, agreed to "resign" effective 7/20/07.

Note this statement in the anonymous letter, above: "You may have pleased the Mayor and some union members . . ." This is reminiscent of a statement in 9/12/2002 article in the LSJ about the Board of Commissioner's firing of Joe Pandy: "[Mayor David] Hollister said the board was concerned with Pandy's relationship with employees and unions, as well as customer satisfaction." It would seem that to keep his job, a BWL general manager must be sure to keep the union happy.