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Santee Cooper: Executives’ great work deserves 6 more months

June 22, 2021 GMT

PINOPOLIS, S.C. (AP) — The board that runs Santee Cooper has agreed to ask two executives hired to overhaul and stabilize the state-owned utility to stay in their jobs for six more months.

The board also voted Monday to reward Santee Cooper CEO Mark Bonsall and deputy CEO Charles Duckworth with more than $400,000 in bonuses after the utility met nearly all the goals listed in the company’s strategic plan, The Post and Courier of Charleston reported.

Bonsall and Duckworth’s current contract ended July 7. The new deals run six more months at their same salaries. Bonsall is paid $1.1 million a year and Duckworth makes $560,000 annually.

Santee Cooper has reached 97% of its performance goals, so the board agreed Monday to stick to its agreement and pay Bonsall a $242,500 bonus and Duckworth $160,050.

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“No question in my mind that every penny’s been earned,” said David Singleton of Horry County, who chairs the utility’s human resource committee.

Under a law passed by the South Carolina General Assembly that overhauled Santee Cooper, the State Fiscal Accountability Authority must approve the six-month contract extensions and bonuses.

Bonsall and Duckworth came to Santee Cooper from a utility in Arizona after the South Carolina utility became a minority partner in a pair of nuclear reactors that never produced a watt of power. The utility ended up billions of dollars in debt and the governor and some lawmakers wanted to sell Santee Cooper.

But there was never enough support to sell the utility, and Santee Cooper executives worked with the Legislature to pass an overhaul bill that includes replacing all board members who served when the nuclear project failed and giving regulators more oversight.

Bonsall said he will spend his extra time leading Santee Cooper on several goals: protecting the utility against rising natural gas costs, refinancing debt, and figuring out where to build and how to fuel the company’s next power plant and how the company can follow the new regulations in the reform bill.

Bonsall also thanked Santee Cooper employees and the board for helping him deal with the utility’s problems.

“A great opportunity and I most deeply appreciate your support,” Bonsall said. “We’ve been partners in this progress.”