Due to continued scrutiny towards Santee Cooper, the power supply company has pledged to be more transparent in their dealings stating that they would be improving transparency moving forward and reporting publicly.
Despite this claim, it seems that a lack of transparency still exists. While Santee Cooper’s board meetings are live-streamed for the public, there’s a portion of the meetings which are not – the executive session. During the executive session, the board stops the live-stream and resumes upon entering back into regular session, meaning the general public has no knowledge of what is being discussed during this time. Being a common practice amongst many boards, this shouldn’t necessarily raise any red flags; however, records show that Santee Cooper’s Board has spent nearly twice the time in executive session as they have in regular session since the beginning of this year.
As a result of the increase in time spent in executive session, lawmakers requested that the board no longer meet in these sessions on April 9; therefore pushing the board to oblige to their promises of transparency. Lawmakers also made this request to ensure that the intent of the board is clear, if the Santee Cooper board is spending the majority of their meetings in executive sessions then their intent to improve transparency and implement change can and will be questioned by the state.
During April’s board meeting, Santee Cooper obliged to the state’s request to not hold an executive session. However, just one month later an executive session was held in May, going against the lawmaker’s request. This inconsistency by the Board is seen as questionable by many and is not the only red flag seen in recent months.
Lawmakers’ attempt to hold Santee Cooper accountable for their promise to be more transparent has failed yet again, something that Santee Cooper direct serve and electric cooperative customers are all too familiar with. These customers deserve to know where their money is going. They deserve to know if the promise of rate freezes will be true or if this is yet another false promise. They deserve to know how the billions of dollars of debt will be paid if rates are frozen especially when they continue to pay for the failed V.C. Summer project, golf tournament sponsorships, board retreats, a million-dollar CEO salary, retirement for former CEO Lonnie Carter, and other unnecessary expenses that customers see no return on.
It seems as though Santee Cooper has relied on customers to keep paying while not questioning increases in utility rates and remaining in the dark about where exactly their money is going, as some lawmakers turn a blind eye, for too long.
They’ve grown comfortable with secrecy and mismanagement and certain lawmakers have allowed it. For the first time in years, South Carolinians are being brought to light and asking for lawmakers to do something about the state-owned and operated utility and not just let it “reform itself” again.