The Public Service Commission is launching an investigation into the spending habits of rural energy co-ops. Commissioner Foster Campbell says he’s discovered excessive compensation for executives and expenses for board members.  Campbell singled out Claiborne Electric Co-op.

“The director makes 15 times more than the average guy in Claiborne parish makes. It’s sickening.”

Campbell says some co-ops board members were receiving 50,000 a year in compensation, with GM pay at Claiborne at 195,000 a year. He says the excessive pay is driving up electric bills.

But Claiborne Coop General Manager Mark Brown says says they pay a fair wage. He says the nine member board clocked about 4,500 hours of work last year, and their pay is not exorbitant, it’s in line with national co-op compensation averages.

“We use that as the basis for our pay scale here at the cooperative so we ensure that we are always paying competitive rates of pay for employees.”

Campbell highlighted what he says were completely unnecessary educational and lobbying trips to places like Las Vegas and Washington, where he says costs for expensive meals and hotels end up on customer bills. He says the co-op’s justifications don’t hold up.

“As if (DEMCO) folks need to go to Washington to lobby their congressman. Why in the hell would they need to do that? Get their congressman, (Garret) Graves, to come by there and see them.”

Brown says the trips are needed, as they give co-op leaders the opportunity to learn about new advancements in the electric industry. He says they take those new lessons home to provide better service to coop customers.

“There’s quite an investment in education for these folks too, and that’s really the basis for all of their travel expenses.”