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PSC places scrutiny on electric cooperatives across the state

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BATON ROUGE - The state public service commission is in the process of conducting a deep dive into electric cooperatives across the state after allegations of high salaries, perks, and other corruption surfaced.

At the PSC meeting, Commissioner Craig Greene called it a "co-op clean-up" after allegations of corruption surfaced at the state's largest one: DEMCO. That cooperative serves about 110,000 customers and has come under fire recently after numerous problems were featured in WBRZ Investigative Unit reports.

This summer we uncovered DEMCO paid for a $14,000 generator that was found at CEO John Vranic's Central home. Vranic paid the money for the generator after he got caught. Also this summer, problems with Board President Richard Sitman and free work that was done on a communications tower he was closely connected to and free work was done to run underground lines at his home.

New CEO, Randy Pierce tried to instill trust in DEMCO by addressing the commissioners.

"DEMCO has begun an aggressive plan to enforce all of the existing policies that we have," Randy Pierce said. "Some of that was not being done and create new policies with the goal of the new policies being in place by the end of the year."

In light of the audit, PSC Commissioner Dr. Craig Greene called for a deeper look into all co-ops across the state.

"They are representing in their case 110,000 ratepayers and so the ratepayers paying for them to have luxuries or benefits... we want to make sure it's not extraordinary or outside of what makes common sense," Greene said.

As Pierce was addressing commissioners inside, a move was afoot by DEMCO customer Bob Bourgeois to sell the cooperative. He's trying to collect ten percent of the customers' signatures which could force a referendum. That vote would allow members to decide on whether to sell the company or hold on to it. Bourgeois said he's been having problems with DEMCO for decades.

"Terribly bad service," Bourgeois said. "LSU, Southeastern football game, I had three brownouts during the game. Their rates are the second highest in the state. The corruption has been going on since the 80's."

When asked if Bourgeois was going to give new CEO Randy Pierce a chance, he said he was willing to sit down with him but wasn't holding his breath. He's preparing to move full steam ahead.

"I'm not optimistic, but I'm an open-minded person," Bourgeois said. "I'm willing to talk and listen, but I'm pretty convinced to go forward."

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