The Santee Cooper board chairman who is fighting Gov. Henry McMaster’s attempt to remove him from office says he plans to resign – on his terms.
“I think we’ll win in court on this, but the day after we win, I’m going to resign,” Leighton Lord told me Tuesday. Challenging the governor’s order is “not about me being on the board. It’s not about me keeping this position. It’s about making sure the law is intact and me going back to private life.”
He says he is refusing to resign because Mr. McMaster is “wrong on the law” and because the facts the governor used to justify removing him from the part-time position are inaccurate.
“That law was made so that a director of Santee Cooper or the Ports Authroity had to really do something bad, had to commit malfeasance or misfeasance to be removed,” he said. “Maybe I should have raised hell with (prime contractor) Westinghouse, but I’m not sure anyone would say it was malfeasance in office.”
Mr. Lord was serving as chairman as the wheels were coming off the effort by the state-owned utility and SCE&G parent SCANA to build two new nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer site in Fairfield County. They abandoned the project in July, after spending $9 billion, much of which will be paid for by ratepayers.
The governor didn’t actually allege that Mr. Lord did anything wrong during the construction project — even though he and the rest of the members of both utilities’ boards clearly did plenty wrong. In an attempt to meet the requirements of a deeply flawed law, the governor fired Mr. Lord based on his actions since the utilities abandoned the project. As I’ll explain in another column I’m working on, while I believe board members need to go, I don’t think it will be easy for the governor to make the case that he has met the requirements of that deeply flawed law. (UPDATE: Read that column here.)
Mr. Lord said that after talking Jim Brogdon into taking over as interim CEO, he felt like he had to stay around long enough for the new leader to get acclimated. But before the governor’s letter asking him to resign or be fired, he had planned to step down in January, because like me, he said, he believes that governors ought to be able to appoint who they want to the board.
And the law that makes it difficult for governors to do that? That’s the law he’s now fighting to keep “intact.”
Ms. Scoppe writes editorials and columns for The State. Reach her at email@example.com or (803) 771-8571 or follow her on Twitter or like her on Facebook @CindiScoppe.
Here are some other pieces I’ve written about this that you might find helpful: