NERC executive suite in turmoil

More troubles for the executive suite at the North American Electric Reliability Corp. On Monday, Nov. 27, Marc Sachs resigned as senior vice president and chief security officer, exactly a week after president and CEO Gerry Cauley resigned Nov. 20 following his arrest on charges of domestic violence Nov. 10. The NERC board named Charles Berardesco, general counsel, as acting CEO and said it will hire a search firm to find a permanent replacement for Cauley. Atlanta-based NERC said it “will conduct a search for a new chief security officer. NERC offered no reason for the departure of Sachs.


Cauley’s arrest, suspension at NERC, and resignation came as NERC was conducting its GridEx IV cybersecurity exercise, a war game designed to assess how the U.S. electrical grid could respond to an attack under simulated, but realistic, conditions.

According to arrest records from the Gwinnett County Sheriff, first reported by E&E News, Cauley is alleged to have pushed his wife Jean into a bathtub when she discovered him in an online sexual encounter with “a young female employee of his. Cauley and his wife are in the midst of a divorce and he was living in the basement of their suburban Atlanta home. She said she entered the basement and found Cauley masturbating as he corresponded with the employee by an iPad.”

Jean Cauley said her husband grabbed her, pushed her into a wall, then into the bathtub. According to the police report, Cauley said that “if she calls the police, he will lose his job and she will get nothing from him.” She called the police.

Police charged Cauley with family violence and misdemeanor battery. He was released on $2,400 bond.

The NERC board on Nov. 11 placed Cauley on leave of absence “until further notice. On Nov. 15, NERC said it had hired lawyers to “assist in conducting a thorough investigation” of the allegations. Board of trustees chairman Roy Thilly, former head of Wisconsin Public Power Inc., said, “The board is very concerned about this matter and is taking action.”

Cauley became NERC CEO in 2010, as the electric reliability group was making the transition from an industry-sponsored voluntary reliability standards organization set up after the 1965 Northeast blackout into a legally-mandated overseer of grid reliability. Among his initial actions was moving NERC from its long-time headquarters in Princeton, N.J., to new digs in Atlanta’s trendy Buckhead area.

Cauley has had a 35-year career and was a VP and standards chief at NERC before his elevation to CEO. He has also worked at the Electric Power Research Institute and was CEO of the SERC Reliability Corp., one of the regional electric reliability organizations, and was a lead investigator into the August 2003 Northeast blackout.

A West Point graduate, Cauley served five years as an officer in the Army Corps of Engineers. He has a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Maryland and an MBA from Loyola College-Baltimore. He is a registered professional engineer in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Sachs, a Georgia Tech engineering graduate, retired from the Army in 2002 after 20 years, according to his LinkedIn profile. He served in the Army Corps of Engineers, as did Cauley. Sachs served for seven years as Verizon Communication Inc.’s national security policy chief. He was a member of the New York Cyber Task Force, sponsored by Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. He joined the NERC staff in May 2015. NERC offered no comments in announcing his resignation, naming Tim Roxey, a NERC vice president, as interim chief security officer.