Santee Cooper Executive: A Bonus For B.S.

Agency’s No. 2 executive gets $165,000 on top of his annual salary of $560,000 …

The so-called “reform” plan advanced by South Carolina’s spectacularly failed, government-run utility Santee Cooper was always a work of fiction – but the pernicious economic realities imposed by the coronavirus pandemic and its subsequent societal shutdowns have turned the plan into pure fantasy.

And while the utility is currently touting a four-year “rate freeze,” this news outlet has previously exposed this scam for what it is – an effort by the utility to lock in exorbitantly high rates while at the same time maintaining the right to raise fees.

How noble …

Apparently, though, “fantasy writing” pays well in South Carolina … a state where government bureaucrats continue to be rewarded for failure.

Charles Duckworth – one of two energy executives hired by the state-owned power provider a year ago – was awarded a bonus of $165,000 on top of his base salary of $560,000 last month. That puts Duckworth’s total salary for his first year on the job at a whopping $725,000 (not counting benefits) – which is just below the $1.1 million received by the utility’s chief executive officer, Mark Bonsall.

Bonsall and Duckworth are also getting paid $1,045 per month – apiece – for vehicles deemed “appropriate for business use” and which “project the desired corporate image” – part of a controversial “motor vehicle fund” that is costing ratepayers at least $200,000 annually.

What did Duckworth do to deserve all of this largesse?

Last time we checked, Santee Cooper’s fiscal position remained hopelessly untenable – with its new high-priced executives offering only smoke and mirrors for addressing the agency’s massive $7.4 billion debt.

Santee Cooper also continues to mislead the public about its financial situation (when it isn’t concealing its actions from them). And far from making progress on a sustainable long-term plan, the utility is dealing with new developments that have shredded to pieces its most basic “reform” assumptions.

So to recap: Duckworth has overseen the development of demonstrably inefficacious and unimplementable “reform” plans … for which Santee Cooper has seen fit to reward him with a massive salary bump.

Almost as upsetting as Duckworth’s obscene 29 percent bonus? The fawning treatment it received from reporter Andrew Brown of The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier, whose “article” covering the bonus gushed with praise for Duckworth – who was ostensibly “lured out of his consultancy practice.”

“The deputy CEO job was not an easy one for Duckworth to step into,” Brown wrote. “He was charged with creating a plan to modernize Santee Cooper’s fleet of power plants in the coming decades, while also holding down costs.”

Yeah … about that “modernization” plan

It is completely up in smoke … like so many of Santee Cooper’s financial assumptions.

Of course none of that context was included in Brown’s “article.”

A few weeks ago, we tweeted there was no real point for the Post and Courier to continue scooping up every available reporter in the state if none of them were going to lift a finger to challenge those in authority.

We appreciate Brown for (once again) proving us correct with his latest “report.”

Bottom line? As we asked in a post just last week: How many more years – and how many more billions of dollars – are we going to waste on the demonstrably failed notion that state government can run a power company? Because it clearly cannot … no matter how much it pays its executives (and no matter how much cover they get from their allies in the mainstream media).




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