The chairman of state-owned power utility Santee Cooper’s board is suing to prevent his firing by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster nearly five months after work was stopped on a now-defunct nuclear project.
Chairman Leighton Lord disputed McMaster’s claims he and his agency withheld some of the files from audit done by engineering firm Bechtel that was critical of the V.C. Summer nuclear expansion more than a year before its eventual failure. McMaster said the documents he eventually received from Santee Cooper were missing an early, more critical draft version. In a letter to the Governor’s Office, Lord claimed McMaster had access to a digital copy, but never opened it. The Governor’s Office claims the files were buried in a document dump.
The charges you have made against me are false,” the letter said. “Thus, I intend to excercise my statutory right to appeal.”
McMaster told Lord last week that he had until Dec. 18 to resign or else the governor would fire him. However, state law allows Lord to appeal if he does not believe the firing is justified. Lord said at Monday’s board meeting that he would be willing to step aside only if the governor concedes his firing is because Lord has backed McMaster’s challenger in next year’s GOP primary Catherine Templeton.
A spokesman for the Governor’s Office said nothing has changed and the firing is not political. “It’s disappointing that Mr. Lord is willing to fight harder protecting his own position than he is protecting the ratepayers hurt by Santee Cooper,” spokesman Brian Symmes said in an email.
McMaster has previously said his office repeatedly tried to obtain a copy of the Bechtel draft report and the agency only released it after he threatened Lord’s job.
Lord was appointed to the board by then-Gov. Nikki Haley in 2013. His term will expire in May.