And the Award for the Biggest Cold-Hearted Bastard in America Goes To...

| Mon Jan. 26, 2009 5:47 PM EST

Bay City (Michigan) Electric Light & Power manager Robert Belleman. Upon learning that 93-year-old Marvin Schur froze to death—"a slow, painful death" according to the medical examiner—in his home, Belleman defended the utility's decision to cut off the man's power, without warning, during last week's subzero cold snap. Installing "limiters" which put a cap on power usage and shuts off the juice altogether if an owner exceeds the limit, is company policy, noted Belleman, and he saw no reason to change it in the light of Schur's death. As for the utility's failure to inform Schur?

"I've said this before and some of my colleagues have said this: Neighbors need to keep an eye on neighbors," Belleman said. "When they think there's something wrong, they should contact the appropriate agency or city department."

Schur, who was $1,000 behind on his utility bill, was indeed found by his neighbor—four days after the limiter was switched on, in a sub-freezing room that had icicles on the insides of its windows.

Update: Wow, this is worse than I thought. Bay City Electric Light & Power is a community-owned utility (one of the nation's 2,000 such utilities). And Robert Belleman is not just the manager of the utility, he's the manager of Bay City itself. So I guess when he meant that citizens had a duty to report that their neighbors were freezing to death due to the reckless disregard of utilities to the proper government officials, he meant himself! Thanks to commentor wikibrain for bringing this to my attention.

Get Mother Jones by Email - Free. Like what you're reading? Get the best of MoJo three times a week.