January 21, 2011 / 11:05 PM / in 7 years

Canada utility CEO quits after improprieties alleged

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - The chief executive of the municipal power utility in Calgary, Alberta, has resigned, the company said on Friday, following a series of incidents that won him notoriety well beyond the western Canadian city.

City-owned Enmax Corp said Gary Holden is leaving the company, effective immediately, a day after a report said he accepted a trip to Monaco paid for by a vendor to the company.

Holden had already come under fire for hosting company-funded parties at his home featuring Canadian rock stars, then firing off a lengthy memo warning employees about leaking information to reporters.

That caught the attention of Forbes Magazine, which ranked it as fifth in its “Top 10 Biggest CEO Screw-Ups” of 2010.

Enmax’s board and Calgary’s mayor declined to say precisely why Holden was leaving, noting only that the controversy had become “a distraction.”

“Insofar as this will help us get beyond that and help us continue to do good work for Calgarians and help Enmax to continue to grow and succeed, that’s not such a bad thing,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi told reporters.

Holden’s departure follows a Canadian Broadcasting Corp report that Holden accepted a trip to the Monaco Grand Prix in 2008 on the tab of software company SAP, which does business with the utility.

“The board of directors is looking into the context of those allegations, and I think we need to wait and see what is found out about that,” said Brian Pincott, one of two city councilors who sit on the board.

He said Holden’s employment contract spelled out terms of severance but would not say what he might be entitled to get upon leaving Enmax.

Holden said the controversy had hindered Enmax’s ability to focus on its business in Calgary, a city of 1.1 million.

“As CEO I want to do what is now clearly in everyone’s best interest and that is to leave so the organization can focus on business,” he said in a statement. “I have always endeavored to act in this company’s best interest and this decision today reflects that.”

Last year, Holden became the target of public anger after reports that he used company funds to hire such Canadian rock stars as Tom Cochrane and Tragically Hip front man Gord Downie to perform at parties at his home.

He responded with a five-page memo to employees explaining that the parties were held for industry executives to showcase green power generation technologies.

The missive defended his C$2.4 million ($2.4 million) annual pay package and warned employees not to share company information with the media.

His replacement has yet to be chosen.

(Editing by Frank McGurty)

$1=$0.99 Canadian

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