Former electric co-op chairman faces charges
Tri-County Electric Cooperative’s former chief has been charged with using his office for personal gain.
A Calhoun County grand jury charge Heath Hill, 69, a Lower Richland farmer, with taking $80,000 in cash and $300,000 in electric service for himself and his family, The State newspaper reported.
Tri-County serves southern Lexington County and 5 other counties.
The newspaper had found that Tri-County’s part-time board members were giving themselves high per-meeting payments, lavish trips and perks while their customer paid some of the highest rates in the state.
Tri-County board members raised their pay to more than triple the national average, gave themselves health and life insurance plans, and created pensions paying each of them $81,000.
Hill made almost $79,000 as part-time chairman.
Solicitor David Pascoe and the State Law Enforcement Division’s investigation produced the indictments.
The scandal at Tri-County led to new scrutiny of 20 electric cooperatives.
The co-ops serve 1.5 million South Carolinians in all 46 counties and are owned by their customers. Any profits are supposed to be paid to their members.
The State reported last year that co-op boards’ pay and expenses have soared.
This year, lawmakers required co-ops to be more transparent and put them under the oversight of the Office of Regulatory Staff.