Fairfield Electric board trims its benefits package

BLYTHEWOOD – In preparation for the upcoming Fairfield Electric Coop’s annual meeting, the Board of Trustees met March 28 to discussing discontinuing the health/life/dental benefit package for new Trustees beginning with the May 20 election. The vote to do so was unanimous.

The package, valued at about $19,000, has always been free to Trustees, except for paying the taxes for the value of the benefit. According to a Trustee who was present at the meeting, only three Trustees currently take the package and will be allowed to continue to do so, but most have other insurance benefits available. That Trustee said the discontinuance of the benefit will be a big savings for the Coop.

On April 11, the Board held a special called meeting to discuss the disqualification of Larry Sharpe, Jr. who was nominated on March 14 for an at-large Trustee position.

Sharpe was running against Tim Hopkins of Lugoff who currently holds the at-large seat. 

According to the Board minutes, Hopkins recused himself from the discussion and the vote which was unanimous.

At issue was the eligibility requirements for Trustees, according to attorney Jay Bender who presented information on the issue.

Act 56 of the 2019-20 General Assembly, Bender said, prohibits Trustees from having a business relationship with the cooperative separate from membership in the cooperative. The Coop’s bylaws also prohibit a “direct business relationship,” between a Trustee and the cooperative.

Bender said Sharpe, Jr. is associated with Blythewood Oil Co., and as recently as March of this year had met with cooperative employees to discuss fuel purchasing procedures.

Over the past 25 months, Bender said Blythewood Oil has received payment from the Cooperative of more than $10,000 per month for purchases. Bender added that the company has received in excess of $1 million over the past five years.

The context of Act 56, Bender noted, is to eliminate self-dealing between cooperatives and the trustees of the cooperatives.

Others nominated for the May 20 election of Trustees include incumbent Keith Lewis (Dist 1); incumbent Cynthia Able and first-time nominee Dan Ruff (Dist 2); incumbent Mitch Rabon (Dist 3); incumbent Tim Hopkins (at-large); and new nominee Bruce Honecutt (Dist 9).

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