How much should top SCANA Corp. executives be paid to leave after the utility’s nuclear catastrophe?
No more than any one of the 5,000 workers who lost their jobs when Cayce-based SCANA abandoned its V.C. Summer construction site in July, according to one state lawmaker.
A proposal by state Rep. Kirkman Finlay, introduced last week as lawmakers prepare for their January return to Columbia, would prevent SCANA from offering an executive a severance package worth more than the most generous payout to a single fired construction employee.
It is unclear which construction worker got the most severance pay along with the boot. But that payout probably pales in comparison to the millions of dollars in severance pay and benefits that SCANA executives could receive.
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“We have to think about the big picture, and what message it sends to ratepayers,” said Finlay, a Richland Republican who hammered SCANA officials with sharp questions about the nuclear debacle in S.C. House hearings this fall. “The little guy can’t get stomped while the big guy gets a golden handshake. It just doesn’t work that way.”
Two SCANA executives – former chief executive Kevin Marsh and chief operating officer Steve Byrne – announced last month that they would depart the utility after the V.C. Summer debacle. SCANA has not said how much they will be paid in severance.
It also is unclear if other members of SCANA’s executive team will leave.
That team’s pay – a combined $14 million last year – has come under scrutiny since SCANA and state-owned Santee Cooper pulled the plug on a nine-year, $9 billion effort to build two new nuclear reactors in Fairfield County.
The SCANA executives have accepted $21.4 million in performance-based bonuses over the past decade, including roughly $3 million for their work on the nuclear project. Those executives’ contracts with SCANA include some $60 million combined in golden parachutes that could be triggered if the company – now a takeover target – were sold.
Lawmakers publicly have fumed about the sudden firing of roughly 5,000 construction workers at the V.C. Summer site, including about 60 who crashed a State House press conference just after the abandonment.
State Rep. James Smith, a Richland County Democrat who is running for governor in 2018, said he could get behind Finlay’s bill.
“It does send a message,” Smith said. “We all have legitimate concerns for the employees who worked there, frankly, even more so than the previous (SCANA) leadership.”
Efforts to reach SCANA for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful.