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Free work performed for DEMCO board member under investigation

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CENTRAL- The former board president of the state's largest electric cooperative, DEMCO, received over $2,000 of free work on his property to have underground utility lines run following the flood, according to documents the WBRZ Investigative Unit obtained.

When reached by phone Friday, Sitman said he told the workers, "do it right and don't get me in trouble."

The trouble though came this week when the documents surfaced. Sitman said he never paid for it because he never got a bill. He said he would be more than willing to pay for it if he owes DEMCO the money.

Ironically, this is the second time Sitman claims he hasn't received a bill for free work he received. The WBRZ Investigative Unit was investigating allegations DEMCO paid thousands of dollars to have work done on a communications tower in St. Helena Parish he is closely connected to. Friday, Sitman said he never paid for it because he also didn't get a bill.

Sitman announced he was stepping down as president of the board this month, but didn't specify why. Although he's no longer the president, Sitman currently remains a DEMCO board member.

The brand new CEO, Randy Pierce, said the latest allegations are under investigation.

"It's very concerning, and we are looking into the details of it," CEO Randy Pierce said. "The information we received, it was right after the flood... Were policies different? What type of connection was it? That's exactly what we are looking at."

Pierce said corruption of any kind won't be tolerated.

"The board of directors made it clear to me and before I was hired, that look, we are committed to getting to the bottom of all of it, whether it's a director, employee whoever it may be," Pierce said. "That's my edict. That's how it was told to me, and that's how it will be carried out."

This summer, longtime employee and CEO John Vranic stepped down as the WBRZ Investigative Unit was looking into how a $14,000 generator DEMCO purchased managed to end up at his house. Vranic paid for it after the situation was exposed.

This afternoon, Public Service Commissioner, Dr. Craig Greene released the following statement:

"It is disappointing to hear of new allegations of DEMCO Board Members receiving free construction service from the utility. As the audit comes to completion and is presented to the Public Service Commission, it will be our duty to ensure that this type of activity is put to an end. We will do everything within our power to help DEMCO address these issues and help them take the necessary steps to restore integrity and transparency to the company."

Meanwhile, Vice President of the Board Steve Irving told WBRZ he wants DEMCO to look at all the files for work that was performed to make sure customers were treated the same as Sitman.


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