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Investigators Tried to Protect Con Ed in Queens Explosion Probe

By Nigel Chiwaya | July 19, 2012 12:53pm
Sixteen people were killed in the July 2008 explosion in Flushing.
Sixteen people were killed in the July 2008 explosion in Flushing.
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Chris Hondros/Getty Images

QUEENS — Two government investigators charged with probing a deadly 2008 natural gas explosion in Flushing instead used their position to protect Con Edison, a state inspector general's report says.

The investigators from the Public Service Commission, leaked confidential reports to a Con Ed consultant who then proposed changes in order to shield the utility from blame, the New York Post reported.

The PSC employees were looking into the July 25, 2008 explosion at 147-25 Sanford Ave., which injured 16 people and occurred as Con Ed employees were trying to fix the apartment's gas service. One resident, Edgar Zaldumbide, died of burns 11 weeks later.

According to the Post, the Con Ed consultant, an ex-PSC employee, emailed his former colleagues demanding a draft of their findings.

When the PSC investigators, Joseph Klesin and Steven Blaney, provided the draft, the consultant proposed changed to deflect blame from the utility, the paper said.

One suggestion read: “Although [Con Ed] failed to follow their existing procedure, it is staff’s opinion that this failure was not contributory to the incident.”

None of the consultant's suggestions made it into the final report, which was never submitted to PSC brass.

The PSC orderd Con Ed to pay $1.5 million in fines for the explosion last year. Klesin has resigned from the commission, according to the report.

Disciplinary charges are pending for Blaney.

“We take our ethical responsibilities extremely seriously. We hold our contractors to the same high ethical standards as our employees and we expect those standards to be followed," Con Ed said in a statement. "The gas incident addressed in the IG’s Report is the subject of ongoing litigation and it would not be appropriate to comment further.”