Calling Santee Cooper a “rogue state agency,” after the state-owned utility abruptly postponed its Board of Directors meeting Monday, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster insisted the board broke state law in doing so.
“At every step we have been resisted by Santee Cooper,” McMaster said in a news conference Monday. “It is a rogue state agency. It is not abiding by the law. It is resisting efforts and fighting against transparency and accountability. Their actions are absurd. They are unlawful.”
The meeting scheduled for Monday was to be the first over which McMaster’s recess appointment chairman Charlie Condon would have presided. The governor tapped the former state attorney general for the post earlier this month this month after state senators did not sign off on the original nomination before adjourning for the year. The Senate has since sued McMaster to block the appointment.
The board of directors notified Governor McMaster on Friday that the meeting was postponed. The utility says it wants to wait until the state Supreme Court determines the legality of McMaster’s appointment before holding any meetings.
“We are very hopeful that through the courts, or through some other means, which will resolve the matter quickly so that we may move forward with the meetings,” the letter from Interim President and Chief Executive Officer James Brogdon, Jr. stated. “Santee Cooper is committed to rescheduling the Board and Committee meetings as soon as it is practical after this issue is resolved.”
McMaster said the postponement of the meeting is one example of Santee Cooper’s lack of cooperation as his office determines the best plan of action after the utility withdrew from the construction project at V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Fairfield County. Santee Cooper holds more than $4 billion in debt from the abandoned construction site at V.C. Summer.
“We found enormous resistance against accountability and transparency on behalf of an — exercised strongly by the executives and leadership at Santee Cooper,” he said. “Santee Cooper will not give us the facts.”
McMaster also argued his appointment was legal under state law. The Senate disagreed and filed its lawsuit.
“We believe… with the potential risks that (Condon’s) participation could cause that this action is the responsible thing to do until the Supreme Court can resolve the matter,” a joint statement from Senate leaders stated. “We hope that the Court will act quickly so that the Board can resume normal activities as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the utility’s revenue bonds and gave Santee Cooper a negative outlook rating on Thursday.
“This is bad news for the people of South Carolina,” McMaster said. “The taxpayers, the people who are dependent on power, those who want to come to South Carolina to set businesses. Those who want to expand their businesses in South Carolina, This is unnecessary. Unnecessary, illegal bad news.”
As part of its statement regarding the downgrading, Moody’s cited “continued unstable governance with uncertainty about future rate setting as Santee Cooper operates without a board chairman.”
“If they had done what they’re supposed to do, they have a board chairman,” McMaster said. “This meeting being canceled or postponed blocks his sitting at the meeting. Essentially, you have Santee Cooper blocking a gubernatorial interim appointment.”
Later Monday Brogdon sent a letter to McMaster in response, saying “We found nothing in our Enabling Act, our Bylaws or in the Freedom of Information Act which provides a specific mechanism for postponing a meeting or prohibits postponing a meeting.”
The letter goes on to say: “We are in an untenable situation. The Supreme Court has been asked to determine whether Mr. Condon is a duly appointed Board Chairman. This has created a legal uncertainty that must be resolved before Santee Cooper can move forward with board business.”