(GEORGETOWN, SC) – The Gullah Geechee Chamber of Commerce has issued a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request to Santee Cooper, the state-owned utility regarding its diversity and inclusion practices.
“During the February 27, 2020 House Ways and Means Committee (Santee Cooper Ad Hoc Committee Meetings) hearing, Santee Cooper representatives were asked direct questions regarding its diversity,” states Marilyn L. Hemingway, CEO/President of the Gullah Geechee Chamber, “And we have yet to see or hear a public response regarding the diversity of Santee Cooper’s board, executive team, management and hiring practices.”
Problems created by a board and middle management that by and large does not reflect the demographics of this state,…can’t serve the community with a lack of diversity we suspect runs deep and is reflected in the decisions management made…Marilyn Hemingway
A Freedom of Information request was sent to Santee Cooper requesting diversity numbers and practices regarding the make-up of its board, executive team, middle management and hiring. A perusal of Santee Cooper’s website (www.santeecooper.com) indicates a distinct lack of diversity as its board is comprised of 10 members; nine of whom are white males and one white female with two vacancies; its executive level shows six staff members comprised of five white men and one white woman.
It is unacceptable for a state-owned utility to not reflect the demographics of its state. As of February 2020, South Carolina’s population is 27% African American, 67% White and 2% other races.
As stated during public comments by Marilyn Hemingway on February 27th, “Problems created by a board and middle management that by and large does not reflect the demographics of this state,…can’t serve the community with a lack of diversity we suspect runs deep and is reflected in the decisions management made…”
We suspect Santee Cooper’s deeply embedded culture of obfuscation and denial is also reflected in its hiring practices. For these reasons, the Gullah Geechee Chamber issued a FOIA request for the following information:
- Number of board positions held by minorities
- Number of executive team member positions held by minorities
- Numbers of middle management positions (director and above) held by minorities and trend in numbers over the past five years
- Number of Minority employees that have been promoted in the past five years
- Training and/or recruiting programs in existence for the purpose of hiring and training minorities for management positions, number of enrollees and metrics used to judge the success of the program.
It is possible better decisions could have been made with a more diverse board and executive team as there should have been wider consideration of the impact on marginalized communities.
Bad decisions and impact
Bad decision making has led Santee Cooper to the following negatively impactful actions:
- actively worked against former Governor Sanford’s committee to address Climate Change which is actively impacting the quality of life of Gullah communities,
- wasting $250 million on a poorly forecasted and abandoned coal-fired power plant.
- Entering a poorly negotiated, decades-long gypsum contract with millions of dollars in annual costs to provide supply to a private company.
- And wasting more than $4 billion of ratepayer’s money on a failed nuclear plant in Fairfield County and to top it off gave high dollar bonuses and retirement plans to the executives who bungled the project.
It is particularly disturbing Santee Cooper’s bad decisions continue even as African Americans are disproportionately impacted by the Corona Virus in South Carolina.
According to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, 46%, of the South Carolinians
who have died from the coronavirus are black, but they make up only 27% of the state’s population.
Yet Santee Cooper and its cohorts in the state Senate effectively shut down the legislature when it returned earlier in the month to address the Corona Virus pandemic. Rather than addressing the needs of all South Carolinians and specifically the African American community backroom politics delayed the state’s response to COVID-19.
It is for these reasons that the Gullah Geechee Chamber issued a FOIA request to Santee Cooper and asked for a timely response as the information may impact the ongoing debate regarding its future.
It is past time Santee Cooper moves in an entirely new direction including reform and its sale.
Founded in 2018, the Gullah Geechee Chamber of Commerce’s mission is to create global awareness, profitability, and sustainability of African American businesses and to advocate for a healthy environment, green, renewable energy, and to address climate change.