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South Carolina power co-op gets new board after revolt

December 28, 2018

ST. MATTHEWS, S.C. (AP) — A rural South Carolina electric company which threw out its entire board because of high salaries and other problems now has nine new members.

The new Tri-County Electric Cooperative board was sworn in at a 6 p.m. Thursday meeting. That was also a change. The old board held meetings at 12:30 p.m. on Thursdays.

Customers of the co-op voted out the old board in August after a series of articles in The State newspaper showed part-time board members making $52,000 a year, giving themselves health insurance and rigging elections. It was the first time customers of a South Carolina co-op used a petition and then met and fired its leaders in the 80-year history of the state’s 20 electric co-ops.

New board chairwoman Barbara Weston was at a July meeting where the old board was hiding in a backroom, refusing to start a meeting before dozens of angry customers. She took a microphone and said she would start the meeting herself.

Now she is running the meetings.

“I put everything back to the people who decided it was time to make a change,” Weston said Thursday night, according to The State newspaper . “They voiced it. We ran with it.”

The old board held subcommittee meetings on different days than board meetings to get extra $450 daily payments. The new board will do all its business on the days of its monthly meetings.

“I know that they’re paying attention. They call. They meet you in the street. They meet you in the store,” Weston said of Tri-County customers. “We can look into ways of saving them money. We’re going to look at this as if it were our own money because, in essence, it is.”

The co-op also is putting financial documents, tax forms and other information online. Before, customers had to go to the co-op’s office in person to get that information.

“It’s been a breath of fresh air with the new board,” Tri-County Chief Executive Chad Lowder said.

Tri-County serves almost 14,000 customers in Calhoun, Orangeburg, Richland, Lexington, Kershaw and Sumter counties.

Among the new board members is former South Carolina State University football coach Willie Jeffries.

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Information from: The State, http://www.thestate.com

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