Santee Cooper Raises Salaries of Top Executives

May 31, 2010

Investigative Reports

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The NerveAmid one of the worst economic downturns in South Carolina’s history, the board of state-owned Santee Cooper has authorized raises for the utility’s top five executives, including two substantial increases of 13.3 and 9.2 percent.

Chief Executive Lonnie Carter, the second-highest paid state employee, was given an additional $12,143 annually, representing a 3 percent boost, to bring his salary to $416,899 a year.

Elaine Peterson, executive vice president of financial affairs, received the biggest bump, an increase of $35,647, or more than 13 percent, to $303,667.

Rennie Singletary, executive vice president of corporate services, saw his annual salary jump $21,959, or more than 9 percent, to $261,162. Singletary was recently promoted from senior vice president of corporate services.

Others receiving pay hikes were: Bill McCall, executive vice president and chief operating officer, whose salary will go up $10,985 to $377,151; and Jim Brogdon, executive vice president and general counsel, whose salary will increase by $7,268 to $249,534.

Carter’s salary second only to that of Stuart Smith, the executive director of the MUSC Hospital Authority, among state employees. Smith earns $431,570, according to information found on the S.C. Salary Database.

By comparison, Gov. Mark Sanford earns $106,078.

Although significant, the salaries of Santee Cooper’s top executives are generally below those of publicly owned utilities that serve South Carolina.

According to information filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, SCANA Chief Executive Bill Timmerman received total compensation of a little more than $5 million in 2009; Duke Energy CEO James Rogers, $6.9 million; and Progress Energy CEO William Johnson, nearly $6.5 million.

Santee Cooper’s board finalized its raises Monday. The utility’s top five executives received no salary increases in 2009.

The utility’s other employees received an average 2.09 percent raise in March, based on performance, Santee Cooper spokeswoman Laura Varn told the Charleston Post and Courier. They also received an average 2.89 percent raise in 2009, and 4.07 percent average raises in 2008, she added.

As The Nerve reported earlier this year, Santee Cooper is noted for paying its employees well. Of the utility’s approximately 1,800 employees, more than 850 earn at least $50,000 annually with the top 250 bringing home more than $86,000 a year.

Even prior to the latest salary increases for the company’s top officials, Santee Cooper’s top 20 executives earned a combined $4 million-plus each year.

Santee Cooper is the largest power provider in the state. According to its website, Santee Cooper supplies electricity to “more than 163,000 retail customers in Berkeley, Georgetown, and Horry counties, as well as to 31 large industrial facilities, the cities of Bamberg and Georgetown, and the Charleston Air Force Base.”

It also provides power to be distributed among the state’s 20 electric cooperatives to more than 685,000 customers in all 46 counties in South Carolina.

Last year, Santee Cooper increased electricity rates for its residential customers by 7.6 percent. Prices also rose for commercial and industrial customers, the Post and Courier reported.

Reach Dietrich at (803) 779-5022, ext. 110, or at kevin@scpolicycouncil.com.