Lexington County Chronicle
December 6, 2020

Execs get bonuses

By Jerry Bellune

Santee Cooper and SC taxpayers are paying millions to former executives.

Former Santee Cooper CEO Lonnie Carter received a golden parachute with his retirement in 2017.

In addition to $344,572 for life from the state retirement system he will be paid up to $455,192 a year for 20 years through a separate executive retirement plan.

This is among key findings of a SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce research document.

The full report can be read at

Santee Cooper lost at least $4.5 billion on its failed nuclear project with SCANA.

Among other findings from the SBCC:

  • Santee Cooper agreed to pay former attorney Mike Baxley $495,000 after he was fired and bars him from saying anything negative.
  • Santee Cooper paid $9 million to its lawyers in 2018.
    • Santee Cooper paid for the defense of its former executives accused of fraud by ratepayers, investigators and federal regulators.
    • Santee Cooper is the 19th-largest US public utility in customer base but pays its executives more than any of the 18 larger utilities.
    • Santee Cooper’s CEO Mark Bonsall makes up to 4 times what other utility CEOs are paid.
    35.8% of Santee Cooper’s workforce makes over $100,000 a year despite being a public agency. The median SC household income in 2018 was half that.
    • The utility’s directors took 18 weekend trips over 3 years, ordering more than 2,000 catered meals for themselves and their guests.
    • The directors failed to fill out state ethics forms, and thus have no idea how much state money they wasted on their vacations.

An FoIA request revealed Santee Cooper pays executives thousands of dollars a month for their vehicles.

21 Santee Cooper executives receive at least $635 a month plus over $190,000 on vehicle stipends.

  • The Santee Cooper board awarded themselves health insurance for which they were not eligible.
    • Santee Cooper’s nepotism includes hiring family members and protecting corrupt employees.
    • Former CEO Lonnie Carter and 5 other senior managers had relatives on the payroll.
    Carter’s brother Mark is manager of construction and transportation services.
    • The Santee Cooper Board of Directors voted unanimously to pay a $165,000 bonus to No. 2 executive Charles Duckworth during the height of the covid-19 pandemic.

Santee Cooper’s golden parachutes | Lexington County Chronicle (

Scroll to Top