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Saturday, July 13, 2024 - 08:55 AM


First Published in 1994


More than 1,300 Santee Cooper workers last year received “incentive” bonuses totaling $5 million, with outgoing president and CEO Mark Bonsall getting a $242,500 bonus on top of his $1.1 million base salary, records show.

All but 58 of the 1,383 employees of the state-owned utility who were making an annual salary of at least $50,000 as of Nov. 5 received the “incentive pay” last year, which averaged $3,774 per eligible worker, according to The Nerve’s review of records recently provided by the utility under the S.C. Freedom of Information Act.

Annual salaries combined with “incentive pay” made up total “cash compensation” for the year, utility records show.

Of the 1,383 employees in the $50,000-plus annual salary club as of Nov. 5, 522 workers, or nearly 38%, made $100,000 or more, with 24, including Bonsall, getting at least $200,000, records show. In comparison, the state’s per-capita income as of September was $48,021, according to the S.C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office.

The Freedom of Information Act requires public bodies to provide exact salary amounts earned by employees making $50,000 or more year in compensation, though Santee Cooper, based in Moncks Corner in Berkeley County, is among 17 state entities that are exempt from providing that information to the state salary database, maintained by the S.C. Department of Administration.

The Nerve on Tuesday sent written questions to Santee Cooper spokeswoman Mollie Gore about how last year’s bonuses were determined, but received no response by publication of this story. For a Nerve story in December 2020, Gore said incentive pay was tied to a “corporate goals program that incentivizes employees to achieve certain financial, safety and customer satisfaction goals,” though she noted then that Bonsall and other members of the utility’s executive staff didn’t participate in that program.

Gore earlier told The Nerve that Bonsall was eligible to receive a maximum $250,000 “incentive opportunity” at the discretion of the utility’s board of directors. Under state law, the governor appoints the 12 voting members of the board, with the legislatively controlled State Regulation of Public Utilities Review Committee qualifying candidates.

Last month, the Santee Cooper board named Jimmy Staton, the president and CEO of Kentucky-based utility Southern Star, to replace Bonsall, effective March 1, according to media reports. The board is headed by Peter McCoy, a former state House member from Charleston County and ex-U.S. attorney for South Carolina who was appointed last year by Gov. Henry McMaster as the board chairman.

Staton’s base salary with Santee Cooper will be $1.4 million, with an additional $250,000 available annually based on performance, according to a story in the (Charleston) Post and Courier newspaper.

The board in 2019 hired Bonsall to bring stability to the utility following the 2017 abandonment of the $9 billion V.C. Summer nuclear construction project, which was a partnership involving the utility and South Carolina Electric & Gas.

Bonsall’s salary was double what former CEO Lonnie Carter was making before his 2017 retirement. With his bonus and other paid benefits, Bonsall’s total compensation last year was $1.37 million, utility records show.

Following is a list of the 10 Santee Cooper employees with the highest total “cash compensation” amounts, including “incentive pay,” as of Nov. 5, according to utility records:

  • Mark Bonsall, president and CEO: $1,342,500 (including a $242,500 bonus)
  • Charles Duckworth, deputy CEO and chief of planning: $720,050 (including a $160,050 bonus)
  • Kenneth Lott, chief financial and administration officer: $530,000
  • Pamela Williams, chief public affairs officer: $431,900
  • Rahul Dembla, senior finance director: $364,899 (including a $46,052 bonus)
  • John Watson, chief power supply officer: $360,902.89 (including a $4,902.89 bonus)
  • James Poston, chief customer officer: $341,566.36
  • Suzanne Ritter, treasurer: $285,340.98 (including a $5,323.98 bonus)
  • Jane Campbell, senior director, environmental/water systems: $276,103.46 (including a $5,253.46 bonus)
  • Dominick Maddalone, senior innovation director: $273,996.14 (including a $5,138.14 bonus)

Brundrett is the news editor of The Nerve (www.thenerve.org). Contact him at 803-254-4411 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow him on Twitter @RickBrundrett. Follow The Nerve on Facebook and Twitter @thenervesc.