Last month, we filed a report on Santee Cooper – the state of South Carolina’s unwieldy, unaccountable government-owned public utility.
Our beef? That this agency – which is running a nice government-sponsored racket – was raising utility rates on consumers just months after awarding bonuses to its already overpaid executives. Not only that, Santee Cooper’s CEO – who is paid $429,406 a year (not counting benefits) – had the audacity to tell his 163,000 residential and commercial customers that they should “use less electricity” if they were unhappy with the rate hike.
Santee Cooper employs 149 people who make more than $100,000 a year, in case you were wondering …
Anyway, today Santee Cooper is in hot water for another reason – an alleged climate of racism that includes retaliation against employees and attempts to stonewall federal investigators.
According to a big expose in The (Columbia, S.C.) Free Times by reporter Porter Barron, Santee Cooper is rife with “appalling evidence of blatant workplace discrimination in a state where many people would like to believe that such practices have been consigned to history.”
Among the examples of this discrimination? A picture circulated among employees of a noose with the caption “For Sale: N*gger Swing Set” – as well as incidents in which white supervisors exposed their genitalia to black female subordinates and called their male subordinates “gorillas.”
Sheesh … is this 2011 or 1811?
So … were the white employees allegedly involved in these racist activities disciplined? According to the Free Times report, absolutely not. However, a black woman who was the victim of an “indecent exposure” incident was fired several months later due to “poor job performance.”
Perhaps most damaging part of Barron’s report? Apparent efforts by Santee Cooper to obstruct an initial investigation conducted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
From the Free Times report:
In August, an EEOC investigator arrived at the power plant to interview employees about Knudsen’s allegations.
It didn’t go well.
According to an eyewitness, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals from Santee Cooper, a female EEOC investigator was told by a Santee Cooper lawyer that she could not interview employees without him in the room.
“There was a disagreement, and the EEOC told them they had the right to an independent investigation,” the witness said. The witness characterized the standoff as tense and “elevated.”
Eventually, the investigator left empty-handed. Then, according to the witness, “management told us we didn’t have to talk to the EEOC, and, if we did, we should tell them about it.”
Incidentally, the EEOC is also probing allegations of racial discrimination at the S.C. Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation (LLR) – a story that broke exclusively on FITS last week.
Our primary concern regarding Santee Cooper is its contempt for taxpayers and ratepayers – but these allegations are certainly disturbing. This website has repeatedly called for Santee Cooper to be privatized, as the state of South Carolina has no business running a public utility (or a deep water port, for that matter).
Anyway, to read Barron’s story for yourself, click on the link below …