From Scott Carlberg

ECC has noted that South Carolina’s Speaker of the House said he’d like to fire Santee Cooper’s Board of Directors and change Santee Cooper’s leadership ... if he could.

He has no legal mechanism to make that change. That matters to Santee Cooper customers. The board is entrenched and without any regulatory accountability. It might also be why Santee Cooper’s plans for reform is a push.

If someone else can’t force the change, the board could. The board could take it on themselves – step aside – to make room for a better board to serve customers and state. Doubtful that such a positive action will happen, though.

Governance and leadership is important. Really important. Some background…

Look at an investor-owned utility website. They show their board governance typically with a brief bio about each director. There is usually a way to contact the board through a lead director. Boards or board members can be changed by votes of shareholders.

Electric cooperatives often have bios about the board members and sometimes even an email address for direct contact. For example, Berkeley Electric Cooperative, Moncks Corners, has a clear customer handbook explaining the board and elections.

In electric cooperatives, members can vote on board members. There was a high-profile example of this last fall in South Carolina when members voted out the existing board. They made a big change.

That mechanism adds accountability. Helps keep boards on their toes. Checks and balances. Open and thoughtful.

With Santee Cooper, board members are appointed by the Governor’s office and approved by the Senate. Santee Cooper board members cannot be removed by the state government, cannot be voted on by citizens or customers except under special circumstances. (The bylaws for Santee Cooper might have more to say on this but were not evident on the organization’s website.)

Santee Cooper’s board has 12 positions. Two are empty now. Check the company website. Might see if there are bios or email addresses for board members, or Santee Cooper bylaws.

A question: Do customers benefit from a Santee Cooper rubber stamp board? Do customers benefit when they hear no robust debate to the business-as-usual thinking of a company?

A board meeting is not a show. Board meetings are governance, financial responsibility. Serious work.

I served in a corporate position at a big company that reported into a board committee. There were highly vocal, thorough, and diverse viewpoints. Strong personalities with definite opinions. The company purposefully brought in diverse thinking. All viewpoints were at the table. The “what-ifs” were aired. It was a mature and positive way to work.

This is a smart process that can help any company. Particularly companies that need realism.

Board members do not have to wait until the end of a term to depart. Resignations do occur in the interest of stakeholders, customers, and the organization.

This column started by noting that Speaker Lucas – one of the most powerful leaders in South Carolina – thought the entire Santee Cooper board needed to be removed earlier this year. But he could not do it. The Board is not accountable to anyone.

As Dr. Phil might say, “So how’s that working for you, South Carolina?”