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Mon Feb 18, 2019, 09:06 AM

After corruption scandal, South Carolina lawmakers push changes at electric cooperatives

COLUMBIA, SC -- Months after South Carolina’s electric cooperatives were rocked by a corruption scandal, the not-for-profit power companies are working with state legislators on wholesale reforms of the rural utilities.

A proposed law — sponsored by state Rep. Russell Ott, D-Calhoun — aims to protect the 1.5 million South Carolinians who get their power from co-ops and restore trust in the customer-owned utilities. The proposal would require more state government oversight of co-ops, and stricter ethics, nepotism and transparency rules for co-op boards.

The bill, H. 3145, follows The State’s reporting last May that part-time board members of the St. Matthews-based Tri-County Electric had enriched themselves with high pay, expensive benefits and inappropriate perks. Those costs were charged to the co-op’s rural customers, who pay some of the highest electric rates in the state.

Three months later, Tri-County’s customers rose up and overthrew the co-op’s entire board in a historic vote. But the episode raised questions about South Carolina’s 20 other little-understood and scantly regulated co-ops. Their leaders also have enjoyed higher pay and better benefits than their co-op counterparts nationally.

Read more: https://www.thestate.com/news/politics-government/article226340885.html

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